It starts with a minor pain when you chew and grows to an
excruciating toothache. Or you bite down and get a sharp pain that feels like it is stabbing the whole side of your
face into your eye. “Oh, no”, you think. “Now I’ll have to go to a dentist.” Your dental fear sets in.
We need our teeth to eat, to enhance our smile. But we fear dentists more than
any other doctor.
Why is that?
To overcome your dental fear, we should look into your level of fear. Rate
yourself, on a scale of 1-10 for your level of agreement for the following:
- The night before your dental appointment, you feel uneasy and anxious
thinking about your appointment and want to cancel the appointment.
- You enter the dental office one limb at a time, dreading each step that
brings you closer.
- Your blood pressure goes sky high the minute the dental chair is
- You feel helpless, anxious, and/or out of control in the dental
- The sight or thought of a dental injection brings up fight or flight
- You feel you can’t breathe when dental instruments are put in your
- You wish you could just pass out and wake up after it’s all
If you scored yourself a 5 or more for any of the above, you have
dental fear and anxiety. Discuss the points you scored highest on with your dentist and his assistants. It is
important that the whole dental staff takes your dental fear seriously and listens to you with
Now, where does dental fear come from? See if any of these sound
- I had a terrible experience in the past with a dentist. Past careless
comments have made me feel uncomfortable.
- My teeth embarrass me. I am afraid that my dentist will think my problems
are from dental neglect and I fear ridicule and/or belittlement.
- “I’d rather have a root canal than…” and other dental analogies instill
dental fear in me, as does scary portrayals of dentists and dental procedures in movies, magazines and other
- When I tell someone I’m going to the dentist, they share their ‘horror’
stories with me.
- My parents were afraid of the dentist and passed dental fear on to me.
- I can’t relax in the dental chair. It’s uncomfortable, lays down too far. I
fear loss of control. I panic. I feel strapped down.
- I hate shots! The dental needle looks a foot long to me.
Yes, there are some dentists that are not compassionate, gentle and caring and a
few bad apples can spoil the whole barrel if you’re already anxious.
There are many more dentists today than there have been in the past. If your
dentist makes you uncomfortable in any way, feel perfectly justified in finding another. If his staff is not
compassionate, handles you roughly, or belittles your dental fear, tell your dentist. If it is not handled to your
satisfaction, find another dentist.
So now that you know what causes your dental fear, what can you do about
Express your fear to your dentist and staff and expect their help in overcoming
your fear. Remember you are not their only patient with fear and they will admire your resolve. If they laugh you
off, they’re not compassionate. Find another dentist.
Not all dentists and/or staff are rough handling their patients. Dental
procedures are not supposed to hurt. If your dentist hurts you, jerks your head into position, seems impatient or
unprofessional in any way find another dentist. (And report this one to your State Dental Board).
Make a conscious effort to overcome your dental fear. Set your mind to it. Talk
it out to yourself and realize that it can be overcome.
During your appointment, take deep breaths and let them out slowly.
Remember, the needle itself is not the major cause of shot discomfort, but it is
the pressure and volume of the numbing agent being injected. Try to see it as a help to you instead of a pain to be
Stop the cycle. Dental fear is learned and can be un-learned. You can pass on
these fear-reducing techniques when your friends or family develop a toothache and express their fears to
you. You CAN overcome your dental fear with the right resolve, dentist, and staff helping you.