Coping with a fear of the dentist

If you have a dental problem you should, in the first instance always telephone the dental practice that you normally attend. If you are not registered with any dental practice then your nearest dental practice will still be able to help.

Having a serious phobia of anything can make life extremely difficult. If that fear happens to be of the dentist your oral health can seriously suffer as a result. A fear of the dentist could stem from previous bad experiences or maybe your fear stems from panic or worry that your treatment will cause you pain.

Whatever caused your fear of the dentist it's important to seek help because avoiding dental care can lead to serious and even irreversible damage to your oral health.

Dental advances

Dental treatment has been completely transformed over the years. Dentists are much more aware and ready to help patients who suffer anxiety at the dentist. Dental surgeries and treatment have also been updated. Waiting rooms are often nicely decorated and comfortable, staff are trained to handle nervous patients.

It's possible for dental treatment to cause the patient no pain at all. Numbing gels can be used to numb the gum area before you are given injections and the injections themselves have been developed to cause little to no pain.

Coping with and easing your fear of the dentist

If you're fearful or feeling anxious about visiting your dentist you could:

  • speak to your dentist and explain your feelings, you can then work together to make your visit as relaxed as possible
  • pro-active breathing and relaxation techniques, these can help to calm your nerves and distract you from any procedures
  • take an MP3 player and headphones with you, this will act as a distraction and drown out any noises which make you anxious
  • agree with your dentist on a signal you will make if you feel overwhelmed or want the treatment to stop for any reason
  • ask for the dental nurse to speak with you or sit with you during your appointment
  • attend a sedation clinic if your phobia is severe

NHS sedation clinics

If your fear is extreme and you're unable to find any coping mechanisms that work for you, you can ask to be referred to a sedation clinic. Sedation clinics are used only for nervous and anxious patients to allow dentists to carry out necessary work without putting a fearful patient through too much stress.

Sedation comes in two forms inhalation sedation, which is delivered through a nose piece and is similar to gas and air, or intravenous sedation, which is delivered through an injection in your hand or arm. Intravenous sedation is not for putting you to sleep and you will be awake during treatment but they do calm patients and relax them, often to such an extent the patient doesn't remember having the procedure.

Last updated:
04 August 2022

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