How to Recognize Fear of Dentistry in a Loved One

If a loved one is skipping routine dental checkups or living with a painful oral health problem, it may be a sign that they have dental anxiety. It’s important to support them and encourage them to go to the dentist. Recognizing and identifying their fear is the first step to helping them overcome their fear.

How to recognize fear of the dentist in loved ones

It’s important to understand your loved one’s perceived stubbornness or laziness to make an appointment may stem from anxiety.

Common signs of dental fear:

If your loved one does one, some, or many of the following things before an appointment, they are all  common signs of dental fear:

  1. Scheduling an appointment and canceling about a day before with no rescheduled date.
  2. Skipping the scheduled appointment altogether.
  3. Hiding in the bathroom or leaving before the appointment.
  4. Presenting with anger or not wanting to talk before an appointment.
  5. Becoming irritated when dentist appointments are brought up.
  6. Living with a chronic oral health problem.

How long since they saw a dentist?

Do you know the last time your loved one went to the dentist? If it’s been more than two years, there’s probably something other than inconvenience keeping them from making an appointment. It’s generally recommended that you visit the dentist twice a year for exams and cleanings.

Avoidance can make dental anxiety and oral health worse

Avoiding the dentist can make dental anxiety worse while also making your oral and overall health worse. For example, if a loved one has a toothache that goes untreated, it may eventually lead to an infection which will need more invasive treatment. That means  avoiding the dentist in the first place may lead to a more traumatic (and more expensive) experience in the long run.

Encouraging your loved one to go to preventative dental checkups will  improve their oral health and keep them from having an unnecessarily bad experience.

How can I help?

Once you identify a fear of the dentist in someone you care about, it’s important to discuss it with them and find ways to support them.

You can suggest these 3 ways to ease fear to help them take control of their dental experience:

  1. Talk to the dental team before the appointment begins. Expressing your concern will help ease your anxiety and allow the dental staff to adjust their treatment accordingly.
  2. Make yourself more comfortable. Bring headphones to listen to a favorite playlist or podcast, or have a child take along a comfort item like a favorite stuffed animal.
  3. Take care of your teeth. Brush two times every day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste. Floss. Limit sugar in what you eat and drink. Regular home care will prevent a lot of problems.

Or you can even be that friend that goes along to the visit for support.

*Updated April 2023