4 Steps to Overcoming your Fear of the Dentist

I know, not many people enjoy going to the dentist. This is what has probably led to a high suicide rate among dentists. Don’t worry, I’m not suicidal. The only part that people enjoy is the friendly staff, getting good service and the benefits such as an attractive healthy smile.

On the other end of the spectrum you have 50% of the population that does not visit the dentist at least every two years.  This is usually out of fear of the dentist or fear of the cost of the dentist. While we do everything we can to help patients afford dentistry that their insurance does not cover by offering low monthly payment options and paid in full discounts. This does not deal with the fear of having someone invade your personal oral space with high speed drills and sharp needles.

If you or someone you love has a fear of the dentist, you know how frustrating it can be. As a rational person, you may know you need to get help, but psychologically a fear of the dentist can produce heart pounding, nerve racking effects that seem as though there is no solution other than pulling all your teeth and getting removable dentures.

The truth is for most people that staying away from the dentist and neglecting your oral health will eventually lead to oral infection and tooth loss.  Tooth and gum infection can be dangerous because as with most diseases, the early stages are not painful but they can be detected easily by a Dentist and Hygienist.  There is clinical proof that infection and disease in your mouth can also aggravate and worsen conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease.

So now that I have lifted your spirits about dental health, let’s get on with the solution to overcome your fear of the dentist that I have used in helping patients overcome their dental fear.

# 1 Tell your dentist about your phobia fear and or panic attacks.

This may sound obvious and or simple; however, it alleviates a majority of patient’s fears. Usually fear of the dentists is caused by a past bad experience at the dentist. You need to make sure that the dentist and his staff are aware of the phobia, so that the dentist can take time to talk to the patient about the previous bad experience and then take the necessary precautions to ensure that it does not happen again. You can also ask if this conversation can take place not in the dental operatory, but a consult space, where there is less reminders of being in the dental chair.

I have heard some wild stories; many of them are repeated more than once. For example, multiple patients have told me that when they were younger, they had teeth extracted, without Novocain and the dentist had a difficult time extracting their tooth, so the doctor put his foot on thier chest and pulled their tooth out. This Now if this is the most prominent memory in the persons mind about the dentist; of course they would be nervous who wouldn’t?

With 80% plus of the patients I see, just taking the time to listen to the patient, and allay their fears gets them comfortable with moving forward with necessary treatment to get them healthy.

#2 Bring a Close Friend, Partner or Family Member along

We always ask new patients if they would like to invite anyone to their initial appointment. It really helps to have a person there to support you if you are anxious. Having another person there when you are nervous can also be helpful in deciding on the best treatment options for you. It can be difficult to make important decisions about your health when you are feeling afraid or emotional. Having a person with you at the appointment that you can trust really is very effective. They can ask questions that you may not think about, you can have a second set of ears and eyes and generally make your visit to the dentist a more enjoyable process.

#3 Take your Time

Most people that have a fear of the dentist, once they get up the nerve to go,  just want to get all their dental work done as fast as possible. Cram everything they can into one appointment. That’s is understandable but usually creates a negative outcome.

If you have not gone to the gym in a while, and your first visit you spend two and a half hours, working out every muscle to exhaustion, your body and mind will be worn out!  Additionally, because of the physical discomfort you will not want to go back to the gym and you will feel defeated because you did not achieve your desired objective.

There is a proper balance between spreading out the treatment to not overwhelm the person and getting the work done in a timely manner to prevent further decay.  Ask the dentist to recommend the order and timing of needed treatment procedures to meet your individual needs.

#4 Ask for Anti-Anxiety Medication

A majority of high dental anxiety patients can be prescribed valium or another mild anti-anxiety medications to be taken prior to their dental appointment to help them relax. This will require that the patient has a ride to and from their appointment, but this is where the support system comes into play.

If all of the above options have been exhausted then more potent sedation techniques can be recommended or used by the dentist. Ideally this would only be done after all of the above options have been exhausted. Rarely does a combination of the above not get the person comfortable enough to get through their dental treatment back to health.

Dental fear is real to the person who is living with it. It is real, just like a fear of flying, spiders, or things that go bump in the night.  Unfortunately the side effects of the fear of the dentist can lead to cracked, broken and infected teeth. The longer this goes on the person feels embarrassed, ashamed and can have low self-esteem and self-confidence.

Helping yourself or a loved one overcome dental anxiety can be the difference between health and sickness or life and death in the long run.

If you have a fear of flying it just means you will drive to go on vacation or business and no other negative side effects. Statistically you have a higher chance of an accident driving to Wegmans than when you step on a plane. But fear of flying is more common than fear of driving; we can be so complex sometimes.

If you have been putting of making an appointment because of fear of the dentist, my staff are here to help.  Don’t delay getting the dental care you deserve any longer than you have to. Click and schedule a Free Consultation or take advantage of our New Patient Special by clicking


Appointments are limited so don’t delay. Or email me at sterlingdentalcenter@gmail.com

Dr. Thomas Bursich