How to Beat Dental Anxiety

According to Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, as many as 40 million Americans avoid going to the dentist because of fear and anxiety.

People may feel anxious about dental visits for different reasons – anticipated pain, negative memories of past experiences, worry that the dentist may find big issues, etc. Some even have dental anxiety due to the sterile smell of many dental offices.  And, for some patients, it’s also the worry that the dentist might not be gentle enough, or might neglect their concerns.

It’s common for people to feel some level of anxiety when visiting a dentist or another medical professional.  However, if a patient’s dental anxiety is preventing access to needed care, it can, in turn, lead to more oral health problems and dental treatments, and an increase in overall stress.

So how can one beat dental anxiety?


One of the most important factors in overcoming dental anxiety is good communication between the patient and their dentist.

If you experience dental anxiety, have an honest discussion with your dentist before starting any treatment.  If you feel heard, acknowledged and informed throughout a visit, you’ll be less likely to feel anxious.


As health care professionals, dentists need to be adequately trained to treat patients who have anxiety.  Trusting your dentist will help lower your stress, so it’s essential to find one you feel you can trust.  When you feel more in control and comfortable, chances are you will feel less anxious.

Finding What Works

Many safe and comfortable techniques can make dental visits less scary and stressful. Express your concerns and share your fears with your dentist and the dental staff will help your dentist adapt the treatment to your needs.  If you’re tense or anxious, the use of medication can help, and your dentist could also recommend sedation dentistry.

Staying calm helps ease the worry and stress level, so if you’re nervous about dental visits, try different ways to reduce your anxiety.

Focus on breathing regularly and slowly during the visit, and especially during dental procedures – when we are nervous we tend to hold our breath, decreasing oxygen levels and further increasing feelings of panic.  Some meditation techniques will help you bring your focus on slow, regular breathing, which can reduce your stress levels.

Listen to calming music or your favorite tunes if the sound of the drill brings anxieties to you, so bring your earphones along for your next visit.

Certain foods and drinks should be avoided before a dental appointment, such as caffeine and sugary foods, and certain food can help produce a calming effect, such as high-protein foods.

Empower yourself by using hand signals to communicate with your dentist when you feel uncomfortable.  Agree with him or her to make a signal when you need a break.

Select a time for your dental visit when you are less likely to be rushed or under pressure, such as an early-morning or late afternoon appointment, and on days you may be more likely to relax before and after the visit.

Get educated on the procedures you need to have – it can empower you to know exactly what is being performed.  And, know that latest advancements in equipment, technologies and materials are so significant that what may have been your experience in the past can now be a much more pleasant and stress-free dental experience.

Finally, one of the most important thing is to find a dentist who is caring and knowledgeable, and whom you can trust to help reduce your dental anxiety.

At Smiles By Stevens we understand that each person is unique – so we make extra effort to create an environment where you feel comfortable, relaxed, and most of all, understood.  We incorporate a variety of techniques and treatments to offer comprehensive dental care tailored to your needs and goals.

Dr. Shea F. Stevens specializes in general, cosmetic, and implant dentistry and was recently named one of PA’s top 20 dentists.

Contact our Lancaster PA dentistry today to make an appointment and to learn more about sedation dentistry: 717.581.0123.