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Overcoming Dental Anxiety

Dental Anxiety

The sounds, smells, small rooms and white coats at the dental office can fuel anxiety. One in five Americans report suffering from dental anxiety. Not sleeping the night before your dental appointment? Feelings of nervousness or anxiety rising inside while you are waiting in the reception area? Crying or getting physically ill at the thought of seeing the dentist? Feeling unable to breathe as you are reclined in the chair? If this is you, we would like to offer some practical tips to help ease your fears and dental anxiety.

Communication Is Key

Sharing about your dental anxiety and fears is encouraged. If you do not let the office staff know you are nervous or a “dental phobe” they cannot offer any tips, solutions or help ease the situation. Be specific, communicate what specifically causes your anxiety to rise.

If you suffer from white coat syndrome, share that. The doctor may be able to wear a different colored jacket when you are in the office. If waiting long amounts of time makes your stress increase, share that. If the doctor or hygienist is running behind the receptionist may be able to call and inform you to come a few minutes later instead of waiting in the reception area. You are more than welcome to bring headphones to listen to your own music or a podcast while you are being treated, if sounds trigger your anxiety.

Lack of control causes some people increased fear. If you need step by step details of what is happening during the procedure we are more than happy to fill you in. For others, they do not want to know anything that is happening in order to “tune out” and feel more relaxed. Let the office staff know your needs and wants so we can do what is best for you. If you need a break, we encourage a hand signal. Simply raise your hand high so the hygienist or doctor can see the signal and they will immediately stop what they are doing.


In moderate to severe cases of dental anxiety, medication may be useful. Sometimes the doctor will prescribe an anti-anxiety oral mediation to be taken before coming into the office. The patient will need to have a driver bring them to and take them home from their dental appointment. This helps to calm the patient, especially if the thought of coming in causes anxiety.

Minimal sedation using Nitrous Oxide, or laughing gas, keeps the patient awake but relaxed. The patient simply breathes the gas through their nose during dental procedures. The gas is harmless and wears off as soon as it is turned off. A patient can drive themselves to and from their appointment if Nitrous Oxide is used.

In more severe cases of anxiety or if a longer procedure needs to occur, some doctors offer deep sedation with general anesthesia. With this method, a driver is required for the patient. The patient is completely put to sleep using IV medications. This form almost always needs to occur in a hospital or out-patient clinical setting. The patient’s medical history needs to be evaluated before the procedure to make sure they are healthy enough to be sedated. During the sedation the doctor is constantly monitoring blood pressure and pulse with an electrocardiogram (EKG).

Our goal at the Dental Store is to make your dental visit more calm and relaxed. Avoiding the dental office because of fear or anxiety only raises the risk of needing more costly dental work in the future. It is best to keep up with routine dental care as a preventative method. And remember communication is key, the more you share the more we can tailor to your needs.