Adult anxiety and the dentist

Adult Dental Anxiety: Tips and Techniques to Tackle It for Good

Wouldn’t it be great if the promise of a sticker or balloon could get everyone to see the dentist? Most adults know that the real reward–a healthy smile–is much greater, yet many still go with their dental needs unmet, due to “dentalphobia” or anxiety. Thankfully, increased awareness of the problem is transforming dental care for the better, and shedding light on effective ways to tackle your fears for good. Find out which coping techniques can help you feel more comfortable in the dentist’s chair.

How To Combat Common Triggers

If you fear needles (or pain in general)…
Numbing alternatives may be the answer. While topical anesthesia usually takes the “pinch” out of a needle, new developments such as electronic anesthesia and other forms of electrotherapy can be as effective as drugs, and don’t require a needle at all. Electrodes are placed on the cheeks, and currents are transmitted to block out the pain. Many dentists have also switched to laser drills, which have a lower risk for pain than their mechanical predecessors. Should you still feel nervous about these options, however, you can always choose to be sedated, and “sleep” through the experience.

If you fear the loss of control…
Play a more active role from the very beginning. Have your dentist walk you through your treatment plan and lay out all your options. More involvement in the decision-making process may calm your nerves and help you feel prepared. Many dentists are also happy to over-communicate if that proves reassuring: simply ask him or her to talk through each step of the procedure as it is under way, and agree to a special signal that indicates pain or the need to stop.

If you fear being scolded or embarrassed…
Find a dentist whose personality and approach are most compatible with yours, and let him or her know about your dental health and history even before your first visit. Oral care makes up a big part of your personal hygiene, so it’s understandable to feel anxious about inviting someone into your “personal space” (your mouth). Getting things out in the open, however, can help ease fears about being judged or reprimanded, and make you more relaxed about getting the care you need. Believe it or not, no matter how bad you think your oral health is, chances are your dentist has seen worse.

Preparation Is Key

Keeping an open line of communication with your dentist can go a long way in dealing with your fears, but a little self-preparation can also be empowering. Here are a few tried-and-true ways to help you stay calm from start to finish:

  • Meditate or practice breathing exercises to gain composure before your visit
  • Don comfortable attire to help you feel more at ease in the dentist’s chair
  • Bring music, books and magazines to distract you before and during treatment
  • Ask a friend or loved one to come with you for extra support

The More You See Your Dentist, The Better

It may be hard at first, but over time, seeing your dentist will become easier – especially if you identify and treat the root cause(s) of your anxiety. Furthermore, frequent dentist visits can lower your chances for the more invasive procedures you may have feared in the first place. Regardless of what you may have experienced in the past, your oral health is worth every effort – and you may be pleasantly surprised to find that dentistry has come a long way from what you remember.


10 Tips to Help You Overcome Dentist Phobia. (2015, March 29). Retrieved June 10, 2015, from

Don’t Fear the Dentist. (2012, March 1). Retrieved June 11, 2015, from

Easing Dental Fear in Adults. (2014, May 22). Retrieved June 13, 2015, from



About the Author:

Since 1972, Salem Pediatric Dental & Orthodontic Associates has provided comprehensive preventive and therapeutic oral health care for infants and children through adolescence including those with special health care needs. We proudly serve the communities of Salem, Lynn, Peabody, Danvers, Marblehead, Swampscott, Beverly, and many more.
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