Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad … Dentist? How To Cope With Dental Anxiety

April 7, 2017 |


No laughing matter, it’s estimated that Dentophobia, or dental anxiety, affects 9-15% of Americans. That’s millions of people. You may have experienced it yourself, know of someone who does, or currently be in the process of battling it. Like any phobia, dental anxiety can affect your ability to lead a healthy, natural life. Most particularly, missing out on dental care can cause discomfort, decay and disease.

So, what can be done?

Thanks to modern psychology and the advances in dentistry, there are several ways to manage dental anxiety. No longer must patients avoid the dentist until their teeth rot away and must be extracted! Good ways to manage anxiety can be environmental, psychological and/or physical, but the first step in managing your anxiety is to make sure you have found the right dentist. You’ll know from spending some time with him or her whether you will be comfortable in their care. Great dentists will be great communicators, compassionate people, and will give you a number of options to help you feel like you are in control. 


Pay close attention to the environment of the office. Is it full of glaring lights, unhappy people and busy, disinterested staff? Dentists put a lot of time and money into designing their office. If you can see a conscious choice for soothing colors, relaxing music and private rooms, it’s likely your dentist and the staff will pay close attention to you and help as much as they can to alleviate your fears. Another good signal to check for is whether the staff will smile at you, and if they treat you like an individual– not just another patient in a long line of patients. It’s important for you to know that you are important!


What happens in your mind before, during and after the appointment is crucial for managing your anxiety. Play the psychology game against your fears and you may notice that your symptoms decrease dramatically. Options for you include meditation, breathing exercises and distraction techniques such as listening to your favorite music. Bring a trusted family member or friend along with you to your appointment. Do some research to understand your fear and how it works— knowledge will give you a sense of control and power over your fears. Seeing a psychotherapist is another option; you’ll get great help successfully managing and overcoming your fears and phobias.


In many cases, using the previous techniques will get your anxiety to a point where you won’t need this next suggestion – physical management of your fear. However, several patients do find that they need the extra boost, and that’s okay. Our office provides oral sedation for our patients in the form of medication taken before the appointment. It gives a feeling of well-being and decreases anxiety symptoms. We’re happy to accommodate your needs, so give us a call if you prefer this method. Please note, a driver will need to take you to and from your appointment as you will be legally impaired.

Here at Legato Dental, we welcome patients regardless of any level of dental anxiety. We hope you’ll sense that we’re more concerned about you as a patient than any problems you may be experiencing.  Our purpose is to preserve every patient’s dignity and provide the best way for you to create, improve and maintain your long term health. But don’t just listen to us! Here is what one of our patients has to say:

 “I have been made welcome and treated like I was ‘normal’ despite the severe stress and anxiety level for any dental work. Dr. Bishop has been extremely informative and fills me with a great deal of comfort. I like to call Legato the ‘anti-dentist’ and know I will not be attending another office EVER!” –Lori H.