How to Overcome Adult Dental Anxiety and Fear for a Positive Dental Experience

woman who looks worried

If you fear going to the dentist, you’re not alone. Many individuals experience nervousness or apprehension when faced with a dental appointment, however, with the right support and an empathetic dental practice, it is possible to overcome dental anxiety and have a positive dental experience. In this post, we’ll look at some of the causes of dental anxiety and ways you might ease them.

What is Dental Anxiety or Dental Fear?

Dental anxiety can be described as feelings of fear, nervousness, or apprehension associated with visiting the dentist. While it’s normal to feel some anxiety, dental anxiety goes beyond typical nervousness and can impact a person’s ability to seek necessary dental care.

People with dental fear may experience sweating, increased heart rate, trembling, difficulty breathing, or even panic attacks which make it challenging for them to schedule or attend dental appointments. Unfortunately, a lack of dental care can ultimately worsen oral health problems and could lead to serious consequences for overall health. Untreated dental problems can lead to pain, infection, and even tooth loss.

Reasons Why People May Feel Anxious or Fearful of the Dentist

Several factors can contribute to dental anxiety. The common ones include fear of pain, past traumatic dental experiences, embarrassment about the condition of one’s teeth, or a feeling of loss of control during dental procedures. Even the sights, sounds, and smells of a dental office can trigger anxiety in some individuals.

Tips to Easing Dental Anxiety

Fortunately, there are strategies to help manage and ease dental anxiety in adults.

  • Open communication. Express your concerns or fears openly with your dentist. Dentists are trained to work with anxious patients and can tailor their approach to make you feel more comfortable.
  • Educate yourself. Learn what’s involved in dental procedures and what to expect, including the steps involved, the equipment used, and the sensations you might experience.
  • Practice relaxation. Use relaxation techniques before and during a dental appointment. Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, or listening to calming music can help reduce stress. Arrive early for your appointment so you can relax in the waiting room and become familiar with the environment.
  • Take small steps. Gradually expose yourself to the dental environment to desensitize yourself to anxiety triggers over time. For example, you can visit the dental office for a non-treatment-related purpose like a consultation or “get acquainted” visit.
  • Look into sedation dentistry. Your dentist may be able to offer sedatives like nitrous oxide (laughing gas), or oral or intravenous (IV) sedation, depending on your level of anxiety and the procedure’s complexity.
  • Get counseling. For individuals with severe dental anxiety, therapy or counseling may be beneficial. It can help address negative thought patterns and gradually desensitize you to dental-related stimuli.
  • Seek support. Ask friends or family members to provide emotional reassurance and encouragement. Simply talking about your fears can help. See if they can accompany you to appointments if that is helpful.

Advanced Family Dentistry Helps Alleviate Dental Anxiety in Adults

Advanced Family Dentistry (AFD) is committed to helping all patients overcome dental anxiety and fear by providing a supportive and compassionate environment. Our team understands the challenges associated with dental fear and can tailor your visit to your individual needs to create a calming and comfortable atmosphere. We prioritize open communication and encourage you to express your concerns and preferences openly.

Above all, Advanced Family Dentistry is dedicated to ensuring that every patient feels heard, respected, and supported throughout their dental journey.

Schedule Your Next Dental Appointment

AFD is conveniently located in Reston, Virginia. To schedule your next visit, contact us at 703-390-9191. New patients are welcome, and we accept many insurances.

See our related post on Understanding Dental Insurance to Maximize Your Benefits.

Dr. Sonny Kim is a Diplomat of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI), the highest education level for general dentists in this field.

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