Is Dental Fear Real and how to overcome it?

Do you get nervous just thinking about the dentist? You are not alone. In the United States it is estimated that between 6% and 14% of the population (14 million to 34 million people) voluntarily avoid seeking dental care because of their fear of dentistry. These are people with severe dental anxiety.

dental dear

Other patients who have moderate or low levels of anxiety may be anxious prior to and during the appointment. This patient will appear on a regular basis for scheduled care because such a patient knows that avoiding dental treatment will only lead to more significant (and painful) problems later. However, while in the dental office, this patient has somewhat sweaty palms and a more rapid heartbeat and admittedly would much rather be somewhere else.

So how can you overcome dental fear?

  1. Tell your Dentist!
  • The first step to overcoming dental fear is to tell your dentist and office staff. When making the appointment let the receptionist know. You can also remind office staff such as the assistant and hygienist. If your fear is based on a bad experience let the doctor know. The more we know about your fear and the source of your fear the more we can do to help you overcome.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes knowing what is going to happen alleviates any fears of the unknown. Others prefer not to know what is happening and if this is the case your dentist needs to know this as well.
  • Agree on a signal. I usually tell my patients to raise their left hand if a break is needed during the exam or treatment.
  • If you experience pain, tell your dentist. Some patients get embarrassed about their pain tolerance or don’t want to interrupt a dentist during a procedure. Talk with your dentist about pain before it starts so your dentist knows how to communicate with you and make it more comfortable. 
  1. Distractions
  • Distractions such as headphones or a stress ball can help with dental fear. At New Era Dental we offer a comfort box with items such as headphones, ear plugs, a stress ball, eye mask, a blanket, and a pillow. These items are all used to not only provide patient comfort but to also help lower anxiety levels
  • Relaxation starts in the mind. Try thinking of a happy place such as a beach or your favorite vacation destination. Try deep breathing exercises to help relax tension in your muscles. Count your breaths. Inhale slowly and then exhale for the same number of counts. Do this five times while you’re waiting for your appointment, or during breaks while you’re sitting in the dental chair.


  1. Dental Sedation options
  • Nitrous oxide is a safe and effective sedative agent that is mixed with oxygen and inhaled through a small mask that fits over your nose to help you relax. Nitrous oxide, sometimes called “laughing gas,” is one option your dentist may offer to help make you more comfortable during certain procedures. It is not intended to put you to sleep.
  • For higher levels of anxiety, oral sedation or IV sedation may be a better option. Oral sedation is very safe, convenient, and cost effective. Your dentist may give you 1 or more pills to take prior to your appointment. The pill will cause you to feel relaxed and somewhat drowsy. You will still be awake and able to respond to commands. IV Sedation is the next level of sedation. This method is fast and effective but also more costly. With IV and oral sedation will need an escort as you will be unable to drive prior to and after your sedation appointment.

So what ever the reason for your dental fear our team at New Era Dental will make sure your emotional and dental health needs are addressed. Be sure to implement the strategies above to help ease your anxiety and strengthen your smile!

Article posted by Jessica Blakely, DDS