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Strategies for Dealing with a Fear of the Dentist



Mar 6, 2018
I am just curious about how people deal with their fear. What is your coping strategies? My filling and clean have been pushed back to the 27th of this month ( not sure when my two extractions are happening yet). I have spoken to plenty of work mates who have said it's fine and I won't feel a thing. I was wondering what exactly people do to help themselves before stepping into the dentist. My appointment was pushed back which I'm a little relieved about but last time I genuinely could not breathe before I walked ?
I am not a phobic patient, just nervous - and have had a miserable year of dental problems after years and years of just six month checks - so this may not be relevant. Things which have helped me cope with lengthy root canal treatments and an extraction are:

Dentist knows I am anxious and is really kind, and so patient. She usually schedules me in for slightly longer than I need so we have time to chat at the start and nothing feels rushed.

I know I can stop for a break if I need it - I just raise my right hand. I have only actually done this once, but I like knowing I can.

The dental nurse always holds holds my hand during injections. During my extraction she held it the entire time.

I bring a stuffed toy with me, so I can hold it in my hands and fiddle with it. Better than clenching my nails into my palms!

I bring lavender oil oil which I put round my nose while in the waiting room.

My dentist gives me a running commentary, and time checks. (I am going to do X, it will sound like Y. We are halfway through, just another Z minutes.) I know a lot of people would hate this though!

I schedule appointments late in the day so I don’t have to go back to work with a frozen face or all wonky eyed from the glasses.

I try and have a “treat” lined up as a “reward” - a bunch of flowers, knowing a parcel will be waiting, cake for after dinner, whatever.

I always wear an outfit I feel confident in. My root canals were six appointments with the Endodontist in total, and I wore something with stripes to each one like a lucky charm. I also wear perfume that makes me feel good.

I prefer to go alone, and don’t like to wear earbuds, but I know lots of people feel very differently on this.

I am not ashamed of being anxious, and am totally open with the reception staff, new nurses etc. My dentist told me that some nervous patients can be quite aggressive, and she would much rather have a crier!
Sorry, me again. The most useful question I have found is “if it was your tooth, what would you do?”. That meant I paid a bomb for my RCTs, when potentially my own dentist could have done them for a fraction of the cost, but based on the roots which were long and twisted, she said that if it was her, she would get the specialist to do them. That meant I didn’t go through more treatment (her starting and then needing to refer me on anyway) than I needed to. Similarly, when she said if it was her upper wisdom tooth which kept getting infection round the gum, she would have it out, I was happy to go ahead with the extraction.
Wow. Judy the cat.. just have to say , great list!! This is all super helpful.

I agree too to have them know you are nervous and tell about your fears and anxieties ahead of time really really helps..

I also like to go at the end of the day so I'm my dentist last patient or "almost the last patient" so he doens't have to hurry to the next one if possible.

I also go a little early and just sit in the car and breath for a few minutes.. to calm myself. meditate even if its 5-10 minutes.
These are all great strategies. My dentist knows I'm super nervous I think that's why she's decided I have my filling and a clean first before any extraction. I like the earphones one that sounds good. I could stick my earphones in and just close my eyes.
When dealing with appointments, the anxiety before an appointment is what I struggle the most. Once I am in my dentists company, it's all well.

This is what helps me dealing with the terror before an appointment:

Sports. I do not run usually, but few days before an appointment I would run every morning as much as I can just to get the adrenaline out.

Meditation. I do meditate every day and during stressful phases more than usually. It helps me to gain some basic tolerance against stress.

Talking to my dentist. I tell him exactly what worries me, sometimes in advance via email and he gives me ideas about how to deal with it and a lot of reassurance.

Nothing. Sometimes what I need is just to sit and do nothing. Or just listening to music staying in a kind of trance. I sometimes spend several hours like that, which is mostly the case few hours before the dental visit.

Sweets. Allowing myself to eat as much sweets and cakes and anything that calmes my nerves. Its a way to be kind to myself.

This forum. I do not get much calmed down by success stories but get incredibly calmed down and reassured by dentists replies here. It serves me as a reassurance that dentists really care and that I will get taken cared of. Replying to threads also distracts me and helps.

Staying busy. Sometimes I plan every minute od my day in advance to have a firm schedule and therefore not enough time to worry.

Going from moment to moment. The day of my appointment is the worst and sometimes I feel so out of control that nothing helps. If that is the case I would just go from a moment to a moment. Example: I am at home, just woke up. So what would be the next thing to do? Brush my teeth. So I go and brush my teeth. What would be next? Taking a shower. So I take a shower. What would be the next? Chosing my clothes for the day.. so I would chose my clothes.. and so on and so on, just splitting every single part into small tasks to prevent myself from thinking of what's at the end - the dental visit.

Motivational speech. There are plenty of videos on youtube with the message of 'you can do it' or 'face the discomfort and it makes you stronger' or 'push yourself' etc. This helps me too.

Ignoring that all and forcing myself to go. That's the last resort, if I just feel sick and nervous and can't even think clearly, then just ignoring the anxiety and forcing myself to go is the way..

During the visit my dentist talking to me helps a lot, but everyone is different, so if earphones and closed eyes help that this is the way to go.

Keep us posted:)
This list is amazing. I'm with you on the eating all the sweets before and after to comfort.. that is my comfort too and agree on all the rest :).. so great!
Hello all , I am heading to my initial consult tomorrow for what I am guessing will be a full mouth extracting and then implants . Am I self diagnosing ? You betcha ! I would love to hear some tips on what has helped you overcome your fears . My last major visit resulted in a very severe panic attack followed by a trip to the ER because I was sure I was having a heart attack ...how embarrassing !
For me, it was knowing the plan at each appointment, and having them agree to explain each step as they went. I was sure I'd need all extractions, but I was wrong! They are saving a LOT of my teeth and offered me partials and bridges when I said implants were too expensive. Can I ask, what part of it scares you the most? We can try to give you tips to get through each hard part!
Thank you for your response. I'm not sure where my fear stems from. I've been thinking about that a lot lately. I think my fear comes from the unknown. Your statement about understanding each step really resonates with me. I'm a bit of a control freak and maybe the lack of control with this creates my anxiety
With my office, they walk through each step, what it's for, and what's next, even when I'm under the nitrous oxide. It makes me feel like I'm participating, and not just having something done TO me. Maybe a call to ask them if they can do this for you may help you feel like you have more control. ♥️
I will certainly mention that during my consultation tomorrow. Thank you
Hello all , I am heading to my initial consult tomorrow for what I am guessing will be a full mouth extracting and then implants . Am I self diagnosing ? You betcha ! I would love to hear some tips on what has helped you overcome your fears . My last major visit resulted in a very severe panic attack followed by a trip to the ER because I was sure I was having a heart attack ...how embarrassing !

To me, it helped remembering that they are there for me. They are providing a service. Just like a haircut. Also, remembering that you are in control. You are able to stop at any time, or ask for what you need. At my last appointment, I asked for another rinse, which I would have never done in the past. My fear stemmed from being a kid and having all this stuff done to me and never having a say. Take control. It helps. Good luck! You got this.
That makes sense ...I suppose fear comes from thing being done to me while I'm laying in that chair and being afraid to speak up. Thank you for sharing
Hi all - I just thought I would share something that's been helping me a GREAT deal (and I am one nervous, phobic, anxiety-ridden stressed-out person).

Because of my dentist terror & willing to try nearly anything to help...I can't take any medications, and have run amok with all the herbal things for anxiety, etc., I thought I'd try some guided meditation cd's. I've never really been into meditation *ahem, actually, convinced I just can't do it*, but, desperation makes us do stuff!!

Anyway, I got a few and they are actually making a difference in my life! I don't know if it's OK to post something like this, if I name the cd's, because I'm not trying to sell them!! I just thought maybe other people could benefit from them too.

But if it's ok, they are: Preparing for Surgery, by Martin L. Rossman M.D., and Self-Healing with Guided Imagery, by Martin L Rossman and Andrew Weil M.D. There is also one specifially for Anxiety Relief, but for me, because all my fear is based on what might happen to my body, the Self-Healing one has actually been more helpful.

I've gotten into the habit of listening to one or the other before bed, and I've been sleeping better, and I feel better when I get up, even knowing I'm facing wisdom teeth extractions soon. Ugh!! But, the Preparing for Surgery one, it gives you meditations for before surgery, the day of, and after! So you can heal faster with less stress, bleeding, pain, etc. so I'm going to listen to that one every night until the day I have to go! (even thought it's not specifically for DENTAL surgery, it's still a surgery).
They're super easy to follow and very very very soothing to all your jangled nerves, totally relaxes your body, and your mind. That's a big deal!!

I hope maybe this can help somebody else, I know how debilitating the dental fear is because I live it daily! But before I started listening to these, it was much worse, so I know it's helping :)
I just got a cleaning today and for the first time in my LIFE - because of those cd's, I actually didn't cry or leap out of the chair. I brought one with me to listen to, and just turned it up high so I could barely hear anything else.
I've never brought anything to listen to before, this is the first time....but I've been listening to these before bed for months now, and I thought, why not bring with me to the dentist?? So I did!
There was the usual heart-pounding fear when she first layed me back in the chair and started her work....but, as I was listening to the cd, I started to actually calm down. What a concept! By the time she was done, I was as calm as I can imagine "regular" people might be going to the dentist!! People who are not utterly terrified, who only have mild anxiety, or who don't really care about going, they just go, nothing worse than going to the market!
I REALLY hope anybody else might consider getting some of these to listen to because they are really helping me!
There is a part where he helps you find a good, safe, healing, beautiful place to be, your own special place, and that place is what I imagined, and mentally got into, and it really helped!
I know by hearing them every night, they are putting good things into my mind, and it's carrying over into the rest of my life, by hearing the same voice I use to relax and go to sleep with, during a dental visit, my mind was ready to accept the fact that YES! I really CAN find some peace and relax, even at the dentist!! I hope this helps somebody else because I know, we need all the help we can get here!