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Strategies for Overcoming Dental Anxiety

Do you feel anxious or scared about visiting the dentist? You’re not alone. In the UK, 1 in 4 people experience dental anxiety, with 1 in 10 avoiding dental appointments altogether due to fear. 

However, avoiding the dentist can have serious consequences for your oral health, making it essential to find ways to overcome your anxiety.

Understanding Dental Anxiety

Dental anxiety can have many causes, such as negative past experiences, fear of pain, or embarrassment about the condition of your teeth. Physically, dental anxiety can manifest as increased heart rate, sweating, and shaking, while mentally, it can lead to feelings of panic and dread.

If you’re experiencing dental anxiety, it’s important to seek professional help. Your dentist or doctor can recommend coping strategies or refer you to a mental health professional who specialises in anxiety.

Strategies for Overcoming Dental Anxiety

There are many effective strategies for managing dental anxiety, including:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns. CBT can be an effective tool for overcoming dental anxiety by helping you understand and challenge your negative thoughts about the dentist.

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation, can help you manage your physical symptoms of anxiety. These techniques can be practiced at home before your appointment or during the appointment itself.

Sedation Dentistry

Sedation dentistry involves using medication to help you relax during a dental procedure. This can range from nitrous oxide (also known as laughing gas) to oral sedatives or intravenous (IV) sedation. Your dentist can recommend the appropriate type of sedation based on your level of anxiety and the type of procedure.

Communication with the Dentist

It’s essential to communicate openly with your dentist about your anxiety. They can work with you to develop a plan for managing your anxiety during the appointment, such as taking breaks, using hand signals to communicate discomfort, or discussing the procedure in detail beforehand.

Other Tips for Managing Dental Anxiety

In addition to the strategies above, there are several other tips for managing dental anxiety:

Distraction Techniques

Distraction techniques, such as listening to music or a podcast, can help take your mind off the procedure. You can also try bringing a stress ball or fidget spinner to keep your hands occupied.

Bring a Friend

Having a friend or family member accompany you to the appointment can provide emotional support and make you feel less alone.

Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing exercises can help calm your mind and reduce physical symptoms of anxiety. Try inhaling for four seconds, holding your breath for seven seconds, and exhaling for eight seconds.


Dental anxiety is a common problem, but there are many effective strategies for managing it. By seeking professional help, using relaxation techniques, communicating with your dentist, and employing other coping strategies, you can overcome your anxiety and take care of your oral health. 

Don’t let fear prevent you from getting the dental care you need.


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