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Fear of the Dentist

How to Manage Your Fear of the Dentist


Updated January 24, 2011

If you are willing to admit you have a fear of the dentist, trust me when I tell you are not alone. An estimated 80% of adult Americans have a fear of the dentist. Over half of those with a dental fear confess this actually prevents them from obtaining dental care necessary to achieve and maintain healthy teeth and gums.

If you have anxiety associated with the dentist and dental treatment, there are easy ways for you to prepare yourself before an appointment, along with ways to distract yourself from the surroundings that many people dread experiencing during their appointment. If you have a trip to see the dentist in your future and you are anxious, why not consider the following:

  • Listening to music during the procedure will help drown out the noises from the dental equipment used in the office. For many people, the sounds of the dental office are a trigger that cause their apprehension and nervousness. Bring along your music source and head phones. If you do not have your own portable music device, many offices are introducing their own entertainment options such as televisions mounted on the dental chair or ceiling, video game consoles, and MP3 players for your use during your appointment.

  • If the bright lights shining down at your mouth from the overhead light causes you to feel more like you are in an interrogation room rather than in a dental office, bring along a pair of old sunglasses that you do not mind damaging. Many dentists require their patients to wear protective glasses to prevent debris and water from entering the eyes. Protective glasses are at times uncomfortable and generally do not shade the eyes from bright lights. Wearing your own sunglasses will feel comfortable on your face and at the same time, block any uncomfortable light in your eyes. Dark sunglasses may also help you comfortably close your eyes during the procedure.

  • Ask questions before your treatment. Fear of the unknown leaves many people at the edge of their (dental) seat, waiting anxiously for the next tap or poke in their mouth. Ask your dentist to let you know what happens during your specific treatment and request that you know what going on in your mouth as it happens. Many dentists remain quiet as they are concentrating on the procedure they are performing. However, the dental assistant will likely be more than welcome to explain to you what to expect next as your teeth and gums are worked on.

Be honest with your dentist and discuss any fears you have before the treatment begins. When the dentist is aware of your specific concerns, he can possibly modify the treatment plan to accommodate your fear. For example, the fear of swallowing dental materials or choking on the debris from the removal of old restorations is common. If your dentist is aware of your concern before the treatment begins, the rubber dam will help ease your fear as it prevents materials from entering your mouth. On the other hand, the fear of gagging is also common in dentistry. Many people become anxious when the rubber dam is placed on their mouth because it may cause them to gag.

When you address the root of your dental anxiety and find ways to help you manage your fears, obtaining routine and emergency dental care will be less burdensome and more beneficial to your overall health and wellness.


American Association of Endodontists. "Getting to the Root of Dental Phobia".

American Dental Association. "Dental Anxiety"

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