Tips to help someone with dental anxiety

Dental anxiety, or a general fear of the dentist and dental procedures, is common. It’s estimated that 50 to 80 percent of the population have some degree of anxiety when it comes to dentist appointments.

If you know someone that has dental anxiety, you know how hard it can be for them to go to the dentist even for a regular checkup. However, it’s important to encourage them to go for their oral and overall health.

In this article, we’ll cover some of the best tips to help someone with dental anxiety face their fears and go to the dentist consistently.

What is dental anxiety?

Dental anxiety is a feeling of apprehension, nervousness, or stress when faced with a dental procedure. It is a common experience that can have a negative impact on oral health.

It’s important to note that there is a difference between dental anxiety and odontophobia, which is the overwhelming and irrational fear of dentists and dental procedures. In general, people with dentophobia will avoid going to the dentist at all costs. People with dental anxiety will still go to appointments despite feeling uneasy.

Symptoms of dental anxiety can even include sweating, a fast heart rate, signs of panic such as crying, and an overall feeling of fear. If a loved one has any of these symptoms before or during a dental appointment, there are things you can do to help. 

Tips to help someone with dental anxiety

If someone you love has dental anxiety there are ways to help ease their anxiety before and during dental appointments.

Listen to their concerns

Sometimes listening to a loved one's fears or concerns is the best way to show your support. Have a conversation about what they are nervous or fearful about and be sure to actively listen to them. Focus on being supportive and understanding rather than trying to change their mind or thought processes.

Encourage them to talk with their dentist

Encourage your friend or family member to have an open and honest conversation with their dentist before their next appointment. Open communication will let the dentist’s team adjust their care to make the visit as comfortable as possible.

Accompany them to their appointment

If possible, join your loved one at their appointment. Your company may serve as a distraction before and during their appointment, which will help keep their mind from focusing on potential discomfort during any procedure. Your support will mean a lot to them.

Do breathing exercises together

Purposeful breathing exercises have been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. This tool is useful when it comes to calming a loved one down before their appointment and even any stressful situation. Try doing some of these expert-backed breathing exercises together for anxiety relief.

Bring distractions

Bring along headphones to play a happy playlist, catch up on a podcast, or focus on meditation and white noise. Keep in mind that using headphones may make it harder to communicate with the hygienist and dentist during the appointment. Work out a hand signal or other form of the communication so that the dental team can get your attention.

Supporting someone with dental anxiety is important for their wellbeing

It can be frustrating to help someone dealing with dental anxiety, but it’s important to offer your support. While brushing and flossing are important for good oral health, it’s vital that people see their dentist regularly for preventative checkups. Dentists and dental professionals can help spot signs of tooth decay, gum disease, oral cancer, and even medical conditions that may have otherwise been missed.