8 Tips for Overcoming Dental Fear | Mount Lawley Dental
8 Tips for Overcoming Dental Fear
Anxious Patients

8 Tips for Overcoming Dental Fear

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Fear of visiting the dentist is common across all age groups. If you’re nervous about certain aspects of the dental experience, or of dentistry in general, it’s important to find ways to manage your feelings so you can regain control and confidence of your oral health and get the care you need.

3 minute read

Fear of visiting the dentist is common across all age groups. If you’re nervous about certain aspects of the dental experience, or of dentistry in general, it’s important to find ways to manage your feelings so you can regain control and confidence of your oral health and get the care you need.

Regular check-ups and oral hygiene treatments are important for helping teeth and gums stay healthy and spotting early signs of a problem. If you delay or avoid regular appointments, this can increase the risk of serious problems developing, which may require more involved treatment down the track.

Take control of your fear by reading this short guide and learning what might be causing your anxiety and the different ways in which you may be able to conquer it.


What causes dental fear?

The first step to successfully managing dental fear or anxiety is to understand what might be causing these feelings.

For some people, this may be related to bad experiences of dentistry or other healthcare in the past, but this is not always the case.

Some people have anxieties related to certain aspects of dental care, such as:

  • needles
  • blood
  • sounds of dental instruments
  • smells of the dental practice
  • not being in control
  • close contact with strangers

For others, this fear may not relate specifically to dental, but may be caused by an underlying health issue related to stress or anxiety.


A case study with Dr Darren Cai

Watch as Dr Cai shares a very special case of his patient taking control of his dental anxiety.

How to overcome dental fear

Dental fear can create a vicious cycle that’s difficult to break if it’s not addressed early. What might be a small, rational fear can lead someone to neglect their oral health to a point where it becomes worse and can turn into a dental emergency. This decline in oral health can create shame or guilt for not getting care earlier and give someone further cause to want to avoid seeing the dentist.  

Whether you’re due to visit for a check-up, you need a filling or a more complex procedure such as wisdom tooth removal, your dentist or other health professional can discuss coping strategies to help you feel confident about your appointment.


1. Talk to your dentist

There's no need to feel embarrassed about dental fear. Most dentists expect it and often treat patients with anxiety and even more severe phobias. You can begin to put your mind at ease by finding a dentist you trust and feel comfortable with.

Your dentist will want to know about any specific triggers that cause you to feel stressed, as they may be able to avoid using these or can explain more to reduce a fear of the unknown. For example, general check-ups and certain treatments don't involve injections or drills, and if it’s pain you’re worried about, they may be able to use numbing gels or discuss alternative methods with you.

Write down any questions and call ahead to reception before you’re due for your appointment so both the dentist and yourself are better prepared on the day.

Your dentist will also explain exactly what will happen during your appointment and show you the equipment they will use at every stage, so you’re informed all the way through.

Your treatment plan can be tailored specifically to your needs and comfort levels, whether it means breaking up treatment into smaller appointments to spend less time in the chair or combining treatments to spend less time at the dentist overall, it’s up to you.


2. Book an early appointment

For many people, anticipation can cause fear or anxiety to build up and get worse throughout the day, so dentists will normally recommend booking a morning appointment to get the visit out of the way sooner.


3. Establish non-verbal signals

Dentists know how to recognise signs of unease even though a patient may not be able to verbalise it.

However, if you're worried about not being in control or may want a break during your check-up or treatment, you can agree upon a hand signal that will tell them to pause for a break when you need it.


4. Bring someone along

If you're worried about facing your fear alone, inviting a friend or family member along could give you the support you need. If you’re thinking about doing this, call ahead to reception to ensure it’s okay and in line with any COVID-19 requirements.


5. Use distraction techniques

If you prefer to distract yourself from what's happening during your treatment, listening to music or watching TV could help you to relax and reduce unwanted sounds. Bring along some noise-cancelling headphones, a stress ball to squeeze or something else that might help take your mind off treatment.

Many dental clinics including Mount Lawley Dental have ceiling-mounted televisions and offer a choice of entertainment to watch during your appointment, or you can bring your own favourites along.


6. Practise relaxation exercises

Some people find relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation helpful to ease feelings of anxiety and enter a calmer and more relaxed state. Practice at home prior to your appointment to keep you calm.

Another technique is progressive muscle relaxation. This involves tensing and relaxing certain muscles in time with your breathing to help your body physically relax. Start by visualising yourself relaxing the muscles in your face and jaw, then your shoulders and slowly and progressively down to your toes.

Your dentist or other health or wellness professional can give you more information about these exercises, and you can find instruction videos online.


7. Talk to a professional

If you think you could benefit from talking to a mental health professional about your fear or other concerns, your dentist or GP may be able to provide you with a referral.

These professionals may discuss options such as cognitive behaviour therapy, which involves trying to make positive adjustments to thinking and behaviour to help you manage stress or anxiety levels.


8. Ask about sedation options

If other techniques have not been effective, or you still need a little help to feel calm and relaxed, your dentist may offer a choice of sedation methods for an upcoming procedure.

Depending on your treatment needs and comfort levels, sedation options may include:

  • Oral sedation – tablets taken prior to your dental visit
  • Inhalation sedation – breathing in 'happy gas' (Available at EVP Dental)
  • Intravenous (IV) sedation – sedatives administered through IV injection (known as sleep dentistry) (Available at EVP Dental)
  • General anaesthesia – unconscious sedation in day surgery, recommended for complex procedures or severe cases of phobia

Your dentist will make sure you understand any side effects and possible risks of sedation, so you can make a fully informed decision.


Talk to our caring dentists in Mount Lawley

Our gentle dentists, nurses and hygienists all have experience helping patients through their anxiety and dental fear to feel relaxed and comfortable so their visits can go smoothly.

We’re happy to discuss different coping techniques and we offer a range of sedation options at our Mount Lawley dental clinic and our sister practice EVP Dental in East Victoria Park.

Call us today on (08) 9227 8777 to find out more or book your appointment. You can also book online. Our dentists also serve nearby suburbs including Highgate, Inglewood and North Perth.

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  1. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/dental-anxiety-and-phobia

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