How to Deal with Dental Phobia or Anxiety?

Do you avoid dental appointments at all costs, even when you know you should go? Does the thought of sitting in a dentist’s chair fill you with dread and anxiety?

If so, you’re not alone. Fear of the dentist’s chair is a common but challenging issue that affects millions of people worldwide, preventing people from receiving essential dental care and putting their oral health at risk.


The good news is that dental phobia can be managed, and with the right strategies, you can overcome your fear and get the dental treatment you need. 

Causes of Dental Phobia

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Causes of Dental Phobia

Understanding the root causes of your dental anxiety is the first step in addressing and overcoming it. Here are some common causes of dental phobia:


  • Past Traumatic Experiences: One of the primary causes of dental phobia is a history of traumatic experiences at the dentist’s office. Painful or distressing procedures, insensitivity from dental professionals, or any negative incidents can leave lasting emotional scars and create anxiety about future visits. 
  • Fear of Pain: The anticipation of pain during dental procedures is a significant source of anxiety for many individuals. Some people have a low pain threshold, while others fear the discomfort associated with injections, extractions, or other invasive treatments. 
  • Loss of Control: Sitting in the dental chair and feeling vulnerable can make some people anxious. The perception of being unable to control the situation or stop the procedure can lead to increased anxiety. 
  • Embarrassment: People with dental phobia may fear being judged or shamed for the condition of their teeth. The fear of embarrassment can intensify dental anxiety, especially if they have neglected their oral health for some time. 
  • Needles and Injections: The fear of needles and injections is a common phobia that dental procedures can trigger. Many dental treatments involve the use of needles for anaesthesia, which can cause anxiety.

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Symptoms of Dental Phobia

Recognizing the symptoms of dental phobia is a crucial step in addressing and managing this common issue. Dental anxiety can manifest in various ways, and its severity can range from mild unease to extreme panic. The following are some common symptoms to look out for:

  • Extreme Nervousness: People with dental phobia often experience extreme nervousness or apprehension leading up to a dental appointment. Anxiety can be induced just by thinking about going to the dentist. 
  • Physical Symptoms: Dental phobia can lead to various physical symptoms, including an increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, and a strong desire to escape the situation. These physical manifestations are often a response to the anxiety and stress associated with dental visits. 
  • Breathing Difficulties: Some individuals may experience breathing difficulties during a dental appointment. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, hyperventilation, or difficulty breathing in the dental chair. 
  • Panic Attacks: Dental anxiety can escalate to the point of inducing panic attacks. Panic attacks may involve overwhelming fear, a feeling of impending doom, and physical symptoms such as chest pain and dizziness. 
  • Gastrointestinal Distress: Dental phobia can manifest as gastrointestinal symptoms, such as stomach aches or nausea before or during a dental appointment. 
  • Sleep Disturbances: For some, the anticipation of a dental visit can lead to sleep disturbances, including insomnia and nightmares.
    How to Treat Dental Phobia

How to Treat Dental Phobia?

The fear of dental procedures can lead to avoidance behaviour, resulting in neglected oral health. Fortunately, there are strategies and techniques to help individuals cope with dental phobia and receive the care they need. Here are some effective strategies for finding relief from dental anxiety:

Choose a Supportive Dentist Selecting the appropriate dentist can have a big impact. Seek out a dentist with experience with nervous people or one with a kind and patient reputation. To help reduce anxiety, some dental offices even provide sedation dentistry treatments.
Gradual Exposure You can help desensitise yourself to dental visits by introducing them gradually. Prioritise less scary appointments first, such regular tooth cleaning and checkups, then move on to more involved procedures. Over time, this methodical process can decrease anxiety and foster trust.
Relaxation Techniques To control your anxiety during dental visits, practise relaxation methods including progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and meditation. To remain composed, practise these methods both before and during your visit.
Bring a Support Person You can receive emotional support by going to your dental appointment with a reliable friend or family member. They can reassure you and assist in reducing your nervousness.
Distraction Methods Bring headphones so you can spend your session listening to an audiobook or relaxing music. You can feel less anxious and distracted during the dental process.
Sedation Dentistry Consider sedation dentistry if you suffer from a significant fear of teeth. In order to achieve a peaceful or drugged state throughout the surgery, this method uses medication. You and your dentist will talk about the best sedation choices.
Behavioural Therapy Exposure therapy and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) can assist in addressing the underlying causes of your dental anxiety. You can learn to control your worries and alter your mental patterns with the help of a qualified therapist.
Regular Dental Visits The secret to treating dental fear is consistency. Frequent dental examinations can help stop dental problems from getting worse, which can lessen the need for more involved and stressful operations.
Positive Reinforcement After each dentist visit, treat yourself. Reward yourself with something you appreciate and acknowledge your bravery to create a positive link with dental care.

Dental phobia is a real and often debilitating condition that can compromise your oral health. However, with the right strategies, communication, and support, you can overcome your fears and maintain good dental hygiene. 


Ensuring professional dental care is an indispensable step in safeguarding your oral health and preventing potentially serious issues in the future. At Portside Dental, we understand that dental anxiety can sometimes deter individuals from seeking the care they need.

Don’t let fear or apprehension hold you back from the healthy, beautiful smile you deserve. Contact Portside Dental today, and let us partner with you on your journey to optimal oral health.

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