How to not be nervous for a dentist appointment (Tips)

In this guide, we will discuss “How to not be nervous for a dentist” and some helpful tips on how you could overcome being nervous when going to the dentist. 

How to not be nervous for a dentist?

If you are wondering, How to not be nervous for a dentist appointment or when visiting your dentist then this article will be very useful. Let’s start by telling you how common it is to fear going to the dentist, so you are not alone. Many people would like you to be anywhere else but the dentist’s office and they all have their reasons. If you fear going to the dentist think about the reason why and when (approximately) this fear began. Here are some quick tips to overcome your fear:

  • Talk to your dentist and share the things that make you feel nervous. Expressing your concerns can help so the staff and your dentist can adapt to your needs.
  • Try engaging in deep breathing exercises. This will help calm your nerves and make you feel more relaxed.
  • Listen to some relaxing music. You may want to ask your dentist if you can listen to some music.
  • Avoid substances such as caffeine and nicotine before your appointment. They can make you feel more anxious.
  • Look for a dentist that has good reviews and is recommended by friends and family. 

Not all dentists are the same and sometimes it seems like they neglect or ignore your requests because they have noticed that giving too much attention to the patient’s demands affects their work. If every time we complained they stopped then we wouldn’t be there for 20 to 45 minutes, we would be there longer. Dental care has become a sensitive topic for many people so it is important to handle with care.

Why do I fear going to the dentist?

For some people, it started during their childhood because of an experience they considered traumatic. Others may have developed the fear of dentists. This is just like the fear of needles or going to the doctor, they are specific phobias. 

This intense fear of dentists or for dental care is also known as dental fear, dental anxiety, odontophobia, or dentophobia. Moreover, some of the patients with dental phobia avoid going to the dentist which means they neglect their dental hygiene and rarely (and probably avoid) visiting the dentist. We would dare to say that the majority of people avoid going to the dentist because they have associated the dentist with a painful experience.

Other people worry that their dentist would not care about their concerns and may neglect them. Additionally, negative previous or past experiences have been associated with going to the dentist and even the smell of the office makes them cringe. Subsequently, untreated dental anxiety can contribute to oral health problems which may require more dental treatment.

Communicating your concerns with your dentist

Try communicating your concerns to your dentist and their staff. Good communication between the two parties can help lower down anxiety. If you are getting treatment, meaning you are not there only for prophylaxis then consider expressing your concerns to your dentist about your treatment and what you can expect. It is ok to share your thoughts and fears with your dentist, they are the experts on the field and they may have handled a similar case like yours in the past.

Finally, try to come up with a system where you both understand each other even if you are not exactly using words to express how you feel. Most of the time you wouldn’t have the ability to speak if you are receiving treatment so try to use simple hand signals or gestures to communicate your discomfort or pain to your dentist.

How to not be nervous for a dentist appointment (Tips)

Do breathing exercises

There is no secret that one of the best weapons against dental anxiety is deep breathing. When we are nervous, our breathing pattern becomes shallow, it means we start breathing with the upper chest so, for us to correct this, we need to engage in diaphragmatic breathing. How do you know you are breathing correctly? Close your eyes and place a hand on top of your chest while the other is placed on top of your belly. Now inhale through your nose, take a slow and deep breath and feel how the hand on top of your belly starts to inflate like a balloon.

Your chest should remain still so you can make sure you are breathing by engaging your diaphragm instead of only your chest.

Listen to some relaxing music

Sometimes dentists have instrumental music in their offices for everyone to hear. However, you could ask them if you could listen to your music while getting treated so you can feel more relaxed. This will also avoid having to hear the dental equipment such as the drill. Some people find it very annoying and it makes them feel more anxious. However, your dentist might refuse on the grounds of not being able to communicate effectively if you are not able to hear them.

Get into an agreement, perhaps you can lower the volume down to the minimum so you can hear your dentist’s instructions. A win-win situation. 

Be careful of what you eat and drink before your appointment

This might sound obvious to you but not for the same reasons you may be thinking. Yes, you need to brush your teeth if you have had anything to eat or drink but what we mean is avoiding the consumption of certain foods and drinks. For instance, avoid caffeinated beverages such as coffee, soda, energy drinks, among others. 

The reason why is because caffeine will contribute to making you feel even more nervous than you already are when going to your dentist’s appointment.

Get advice

We may feel more comfortable with our dentist if it has been recommended by a friend, family member or someone we trust. In these times, we are certain that a service or a person is ‘good’ if they have satisfactory reviews or if they come ‘highly recommended’ by someone we trust. The same as when we are buying something online, a product or a service that is interesting for us, we will first attempt to look for the reviews and see what other people think about it. This is when we decide if we buy it or not.

Is there a treatment for dental phobia?

There are some options available to you if you feel you can’t cope with the anxiety on your own such as behavioural techniques (i.e. exposure therapy, CBT) and anti-anxiety meds. Additionally, there are dental fear clinics where dentists work alongside psychologists to provide people who suffer from dental phobia with the skills to help them cope with anxiety.

As indicated on gentledental-mi.com, “In the absence of a clinic, some dentists try and help patients to overcome the fear through gentle dentistry and explaining the procedures in a calming way to reduce a fear of the unknown.”

How to not be nervous for a dentist appointment (Tips)

Relaxation and breathing techniques are also a good option to manage your dental phobia. As we mentioned, deep breathing exercises can help you relax when you are at your dentist office as well as muscle relaxation techniques and guided imagery. If you would like to know more, we recommend getting in contact with a psychologist.

Finally, in terms of medication, it can range from mild sedatives to general anaesthesia. It is common for dentists to use ‘laughing gas’ to help a nervous patient. In other cases, dentists can prescribe Valium or Xanax before the appointment or procedure.

Why is this blog about How to not be nervous for a dentist important?

As we have discussed, dental phobia is very common and there are several things you could do to soothe your anxiety and calm your nerves. For instance, try communicating your concerns to your dentist about what makes you feel nervous and get into an agreement on how you will let your dentist know they need to stop or that something about the procedure is causing pain. Additionally, try engaging in breathing exercises before you go into your appointment, this will help you reduce your anxiety.

Finally, if your anxiety becomes too overwhelming and you feel it interferes with your normal functioning, consider visiting a psychologist or mental health professional to assess all your options. 

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How to not be nervous for dentist

How can I stop being scared of the dentist?

You can stop being scared of the dentist when you analyze and understand why you fear the dentist in the first place. Do the conscious exercise of identifying why you fear going to the dentist. Phobias are excessive and irrational fears, so try to identify the thoughts that feed your anxiety. 

Why am I so afraid of the dentist?

There are several reasons why you could be afraid of the dentist. Maybe, you have associated the visit to the dentist with a painful experience, perhaps when you were little. However, it is not always like this since you could have developed the fear recently, for instance, after dental surgery. 

How do dentists deal with nervousness?

Your dentist is used to seeing and dealing with patients that feel nervous. Your dentist may attempt to:
– Negotiate and communicate with you. If you are not feeling comfortable or you are in pain, you are allowed to communicate it to your dentist.

– Adjust the seat. Sometimes, being in the wrong position can cause discomfort and pain.

– Allow you to listen to music during your treatment.

– Teach you how to breathe and relax.

– Make sure you understand there is nothing to worry about.

Can a dentist give you something for anxiety?

Dentists may prescribe medications to reduce your anxiety such as diazepam (Valium) that you can take at least one hour before your appointment. Your dentist may recommend conscious sedation, such as nitrous oxide also known as ‘laughing gas’, which can help you feel calm and relaxed.

What’s the most painful dental procedure?

Root canals are said to be the most painful dental procedure. This is also a very common dental treatment. However, some studies have shown conflicting numbers where a very small percentage of the patients have reported their experience as ‘the most painful experience’ but consider how subjective this experience can be.

References 

Deltadentalins.com: “7 ways to manage your anxiety about going to the dentist”

Gentledental-mi.com: “Overcoming Dentophobia, a Fear of the Dentist”

How to not be nervous for a dentist appointment (Tips)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.