A young woman sits in a dentists’ chair, awaiting her checkup without fear.

How to overcome a fear of dentists

Being scared of the dentist might not seem like much of a problem when your teeth are healthy, but if you develop a dental issue such as gum disease, dental anxiety can make it harder for you to get the help you need. 

In this article, we’ll explore ways to help yourself or a loved one overcome a fear of dentists to ensure the best oral healthcare for all.

Should I be scared to go to the dentist?

The most important thing to remember when trying to get over dental anxiety is that your dentist is on your side. They have no intention of hurting you or causing any pain – they just want to help you keep your teeth as healthy as possible. 

Many people have some level of fear of the dentist, whether it’s mild dental anxiety or a more serious dental phobia. Whatever the case, you shouldn’t feel ashamed of your fear. It’s there for a reason – even if sometimes that reason isn’t rational. Either way, overcoming that fear so you can see your dentist without trouble should be your priority. 

How to get over a fear of dentists

If your problem is dental anxiety – in other words, you can still make it to your appointments, but you dread them and feel very uncomfortable during them – then there are a number of self care options that can help you to manage your fear.[1] 

One thing you can do to try to help is to identify what is causing your fear. For example, some people are afraid of specific aspects of a doctor’s visit, such as receiving an injection or pain from dentists’ drills. If this is the case for you, then let your dentist know and between you, you may be able to come to an agreement on a plan to manage your anxiety.[1]

Similarly, discomfort relating to specific stimuli can also be managed. Some people are sensitive to the brightness of overhead lights used during checkups and procedures, for example. This could be managed by wearing sunglasses or using a sleep mask that covers your eyes. That way, your dentist still has the light they need to see. Another example is using headphones to block out the sound of equipment such as suction tubes and drills.[2]

If your fear is more general, you might instead try techniques to help you relax during appointments and procedures. For example, this could include:[1]

  • Breathing exercises and meditation
  • Distractions – e.g. listening to music or playing a game on a phone or handheld console
  • Using anti-anxiety items such as a weighted blanket or fidget spinner


You could also arrange with your dentist that you’ll give them a signal, such as raising a hand, if you want them to stop at any point during your procedure or checkup. This can help to reassure you that you have a safeguard if you do feel uncomfortable, which may relax you to the point where you don’t feel uncomfortable.[1]

If these techniques don’t help, or you have a dental phobia which is more serious, then you may need to try other methods. In the short term, dentists can perform procedures with you under different types of sedation. This can include anti-anxiety medication prescribed by your dentist, or nitrous oxide (laughing gas). More impactful types of sedation such as general anaesthesia can be done too, but this needs to be done in a hospital setting and so would take longer to arrange.[1] 

In the longer term, you may find it beneficial to speak to a mental health practitioner or therapist about what you can do to help overcome your phobia. Some people find that treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) help to relieve their symptoms.[1] 

Finally, the last thing you can do is to look after your teeth well to reduce the frequency with which you need to visit your dentist. This includes brushing your teeth thoroughly and flossing with purpose built tools such as Dentek’s Triple Clean Floss Picks, which use textured floss to give a deeper clean. Eating healthily and refraining from brushing your teeth sooner than 30 minutes after a meal can also help.[3]



[1] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/dental-anxiety-and-phobia 

[2] https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/dental-health/visiting-the-dentist/coping-with-a-fear-of-the-dentist/ 

[3] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-teeth-and-gums/how-to-keep-your-teeth-clean/

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