Dental Anxiety: Causes and Treatments

By Brian P. Hall, DMD

In my nearly 26 years of providing dental care, I’ve observed an enormous amount of dental anxiety and have developed more than a few theories on what causes it and the best ways to treat it. Part of my personality is that I hate to see people in pain or fear, which I realize is odd for a dentist, but maybe not as odd as you would think. Being a dentist, I have the ability to take procedures that normally inspire fear and anxiety and reduce or remove it entirely.

So let’s get started. Here are the top anxiety creators in dentistry:

Pain: Fear that something in the dental office will cause a sudden sharp pain which leads to…

Needles: It’s not just the pain they can cause but just the thought of them sends some people into a tailspin.

The Sound of the Drill: This one is more common than you think.

Claustrophobia: This one is very common too. A couple people in very close proximity to your face are placing multiple instruments in your mouth.

Past Dental Horror Stories: Your past affects the present.

Other People’s Horror Stories: Yes, your friends and family can increase your anxiety by giving you all the gory details of a bad experience.

An Outdated, Dirty, or Cluttered Dental Office: This one can erode your trust in your dentist.

Now that I’ve increased the blood pressure of nearly everyone reading this, let’s talk about ways to combat these anxieties.

Pain: Make sure your dentist takes their time giving injections (most anesthetics are low pH and can burn if injected too fast). Also make sure you are fully numb before your dentist starts a major procedure.

Needles: Tell your dentist you don’t want to see the needle. Ever.

The Sound of the Drill : Bring earbuds with music. We have TV’s on the ceiling with headphones so you can totally tune us out.

Claustrophobia: Sedation with laughing gas or medication helps. We have large rooms and high ceilings which seems to help with this.

Past Dental Horror Stories: We do a patient interview with all new patients. This is a great time to unload all past issues. I highly recommend that if you have issues, make a consult appointment to discuss before beginning treatment. This will help you both understand each other and the procedures better, which should lower anxiety.

Other People’s Horror Stories: Don’t listen. Really. Also, don’t tell your kids horror stories before their appointments or let other people do it. You are only making things much worse.

An Outdated, Dirty, or Cluttered Dental Office: If the office you are going to makes you uncomfortable, find a new one. If you feel very comfortable with the staff, point it out.

If you suffer from dental anxiety, I hope these ideas help you and give you hope that you can overcome or at least minimize your anxiety.


Say it with a Smile-BrianHall

Dr. Brian P. Hall General Dentistry is located at 1180 Resurgence Drive Suite 300, Watkinsville, GA 30677 and can be contacted by phone at 706.549.8737.

Leave a Reply