What can I do if I'm nervous about going to the dentist?

Don't let your anxiety keep you from a healthy smile. Watch as Dr. Maria Lopez Howell provides tips on how to talk to your dentist about anxiety.
Ned Nippoldt
First of all, realize that you are not alone. Many patients find that going to the dentist makes them nervous. For some, it's due to adverse childhood experiences. Others find that certain smells or the sound of the drill makes them uncomfortable. Fear of needle injections or pain is another concern.

It's important to find a dentist who is in tune with your concerns and who will take the time to listen to what your fears are. For many patients, just talking about your concerns with a professional who is willing to listen will help. Often the dentist can provide simple comforting remedies such as earphones to mask the noise or scented candles or neck wraps to mask the smells. Also, developing a hand signal to let your dentist know if you are experiencing pain so that the dentist can address the pain right away will give you a feeling of being in control of the situation. Nitrous oxide can also be used to further relax you during your dental procedures.

Patients who a very afraid of having dental work will benefit from using the services of a dentist who provides IV sedation dentistry. With IV sedation dentistry, you will be put at a level of complete relaxation while the dentist completes your needed dental procedures.
Peggy Rosen
First ask yourself what causes you to be afraid of the dentist. Finding the root of your fear will help you remove the fear permanently. If your fear comes from any of the most common situations below; you might find a solution to your fear:
  1. Is it because you have had a bad past dental experience?

    New technology helps ease dental pain efficiently and the procedure is quicker than during your childhood.
  2. Is it because you heard it from your friends who had bad experience in the past?

    The same answer from 1 can apply here.
  3. Does your fear come from the dental office environment (smell, noise, etc.)?

    You can bring your own music and have some cotton ball soak with your favorite perfume in your pocket.
  4. Is your fear of dental pain because you have low pain tolerance?

    You can let the dentist know in advance; there are many ways the dentist can help you. You just need to communicate with the dentist.
  5. Does your fear come from not knowing what will happen to your teeth?

    The first visit to the dentist; you can schedule for a consultation only. This way, you will have an opportunity to ask questions and understand your condition better before making the final decision on your treatment plan with the dentist. If you have severe pain or other dental emergency; your first appointment may not be a consultation since the dentist will concentrate on solving your problem first.
  6. Is your fear coming from not knowing if you'll make the right decision for your dental problem?

    You can always get a second or third opinion to help you make the decision.
  7. Is your fear coming from not knowing if you can afford the treatment?

    After consultation appointment; the dentist will let you know the cost of the treatment. You can ask the dentist for a payment plan or request the most urgent condition to be treated first.
Remember, if you have fear and you're not doing anything about it, you will have fear for the rest of your life.
It is all too common that dental anxieties and fears keep people from getting the dental care they need. By the time something hurts it usually makes treatment more difficult, uncomfortable, and expensive, further reinforcing existing dental fears. 

Dr. Nippolt is right on. Find a dentist who will listen and have the patience to help you through your fears. Modern dentistry is very painless and there are many strategies a general dentist can use to put you at ease.

Whether it’s a 4 year old who had siblings instill needle fear in them or an adult with a history of avoiding the dentist I find almost everyone finds themselves having a positive experience that builds from visit to visit and before long the anxieties are minimal.

Face your fears. Do not let your mouth suffer.
There are many things you can do and options your dentist has to make you comfortable in the dental chair. First of all you need to understand that dentistry has come a long way. The injections are virtually painless. Modern local anesthetics are much better and safer than they were years ago. So if pain is your concern today's local anesthetics will block the discomfort during treatment and there are potent medications you can take afterwards.

If you are anxious about the shot or injection then you can ask your dentist to use Nitrous Oxide for mild anxiety, Oral Sedation for moderate anxiety and I.V. sedation or deep sedation for severe anxiety or phobia.

Additional triggers are the sound of the drill, smell of the office, anticipation of pain or gagging during treatment which can be managed the same way as fear of the needle or injection.

Music can also help you relax, along with some self-hypnosis, are great adjuncts to use in the dental office. For additional options or answers to your questions go to
Firstly, please advise your dentist of your anxiety. As cited from the outstanding answers previously, modern dentistry has made wonderful progress in recent years.

As you offer your dentist specifics about your anxieties, your doctor will be better able to tailor design, modalities to assist in your comfort.

Please talk! We are here for you.
Dante A. Gonzales, DMD
Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics
If you have a fear of the dentist, it's important to talk to your dentist to figure out what's triggering the fear, says Dante Gonzales, DMD. In this video he discusses this and other options for helping to overcome your fear of the dentist.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.