9 Ways to Cope with Dental Phobia

I wrote earlier in the week about my technophobia. Of course, that’s more of an aversion rather than a phobia, but one thing I am really scared of is the dentist. Like many people, I have a dental phobia and extreme dental anxiety – officially known as dentophobia or odontophobia.

I have had counselling to deal with the anxiety and fear caused by a visit to the dentist or dental hygienist. As this is a very common problem, I’d like to share some tips with you on how to cope with your dental phobia.

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How my dental phobia started

My fear of the dentist dates right back to being a young child. Even though I didn’t have any treatment back then, I can still picture sitting in that dentist’s chair looking at the brown net curtains while the dentist said I was a baby for wanting my mother in the surgery with me. We never went back there!

We changed to a far more patient and kind dentist, but at the age of 7, I had to have a tooth out. Again, I can still picture myself sitting in that dentist’s chair, this time being given gas to anesthetize me for the procedure.  I vividly dreamt of tooth fairies all pulling at long strings trying to yank my teeth out. The fact that those memories are clear as day over 45 years later, shows what an impact that had.

Face your dental fears

Even though I had these traumatising childhood experiences, I was taken to the dentist every six months for a check-up and I continued with this routine into adulthood. Some times were worse than others, and when I was suffering from depression in my mid-20s, it was extremely difficult to force myself to go. My GP suggested some counselling in the form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

CBT teaches you to challenge your fears whatever they may be, and learn new strategies for coping with different situations. During my sessions, we were able to ascertain what caused these fears, what I was frightened of, and ways of coping in the future.

I wasn’t scared of the pain, more the feeling of not being in control and the gag reflex that is so often provoked by prolonged dental procedures.

9 ways to cope with your dental phobia

* Firstly, find a dentist or hygienist that you like and trust. Seek out recommendations from friends and family and choose one that is experienced with nervous or anxious patients.

* Explain to your dentist at your first meeting what you are scared of. They may be able to reassure you throughout the procedure. My dentist would tell me what he was doing and how much longer it was likely to take. He would also tell me to raise my hand if I ever wanted him to stop. This gave me an element of control.

* Play music or a guided meditation through headphones if it helps you to relax.

* Take a friend or relative with you.

* Take small sips of water while you wait.

* Practice deep breathing before and during your appointment.

* I found focusing on time useful. I would tell myself that in an hour this would all be over. I mean what’s an hour? – everyone can cope with something horrible for an hour.

* If you need treatment and you can’t cope with it, you may be eligible to have your dental work done under sedation. This could be in the form of a light tranquilizer that calms you or a heavier sedation administered by an anaesthetist or specially trained dentist.

* Reward yourself afterward with a treat and praise yourself that even though you didn’t like it, you did it!

Further Treatment

Once you have coped with a check-up, slowly build up to a visit with the hygienist, or have a necessary dental treatment such a filling. As your confidence increases you might find you can look at cosmetic dentistry such as whitening or veneers, or even dental implants. Remember to take your time, voice your fears, and face your anxieties rather than avoid them. Dental hygiene is so important.

Do you have a dental phobia? How do you deal with your fears?

photo of a woman in a dentist chair having her teeth examined, 9 ways to cope with dental phobia

Pin for later – photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels



11 thoughts on “9 Ways to Cope with Dental Phobia

  1. Yes I hate gong to dentist – ok its a fear, I put off going and only go when it is my routine check-ups. My dentist when I was kid was very keen to doing fillings on my teeth (but back then I think they got paid for each filling made on the NHS I may be wrong – but that put me off going to dentist for years after! I always make my kids go though, my middle son has a fear of going so there are some really useful tips here that I can use with him next time his check-up is due.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a phobia of the dentist too. I will only go when I have toothache which probably isn’t the best thing. I do make sure my girls always have their check ups. Great advice. x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These are all great tips. You really are not alone being scared. And I think more people will be anxious after such a long absence from a dental chair during the pandemic. I think explaining your fears to the dentist is the most important tip, and not feeling silly asking for empathy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with odontophobia. Mine isn’t too bad these days but I still get pretty high anxiety and fear when going. We had a horrid dentist when I was little and my mum refused to send me back there again, but as you’ve found, early memories stick. I had a bad experience with our current dentist just a couple of years ago when a simple filling went badly wrong, but I had no apologies or anything, just another rude dentist trying to fix the problem. Your tips are great – I do think deep breathing can help with the physiology of fear and focusing on the time is good too. I like to think of what I’m going to do afterwards, like get home and have a cuppa tea, where all thoughts of the dentist will be in the past! xx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes. And that’s all I’m saying on the matter.

    Well done for writing this post, I’m sure it was quite difficult to write, but invaluable information for everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

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