How Dental Professionals Can Alleviate Dental Anxiety in Patients

Callum McPhillips


Patients who suffer from dental anxiety are less likely to go to the dentist. This increases their likelihood of developing dental problems, which can, in turn, make their dental anxiety even worse. It’s important for dentists to be able to help alleviate their patients’ dental anxiety and make them feel more comfortable and willing to attend regular appointments. Methods of alleviation, which will will depend on the severity of the patients’ dental anxiety, can range from conversing with the patient to medical sedation techniques.

Meet with the Patient

If you know of a patient who suffers from dental anxiety, scheduling a meeting to have a conversation can help. It’s best to do this without having a dental appointment or checkup scheduled. This way, the patient will be more relaxed and more likely to attend.

Having the conversation in the dental environment is also beneficial. The patient may feel anxious at first being in the dental facility. But if they are made aware that they are just having a conversation and not being treated, they should feel reassured and convinced to come. Being in and around the dental environment allows patients to familiarize themselves with the practice without worrying about being examined.

During the meeting, discussing the patient’s dental anxiety with them can help you to understand why they may suffer from the condition, whether it’s through previous experiences or a fear of pain. This way, you can get an idea of why they suffer from anxiety and see what can be done to ease it. If the patient sees the dentist as genuinely interested and caring, they may feel less dental anxiety.  

Make Them Feel Calm

Once you meet the patient, it’s important to make them feel calm and comfortable. Even something such as a simple, personal introduction can help to put patients at ease. Often, patients find the experience of going to the dentist quite impersonal due to a lack of communication, which can increase anxiety. A smile and a handshake can go a long way.

Plenty of things can be done to the environment to help the patient feel more at ease. Dimming the lights in the waiting room can help calm patients. Also, having a television switched on can provide a welcome distraction for patients who suffer from dental anxiety.

Once the patient moves from the waiting room into the dental office, hiding any dental instruments also can be beneficial. Having sunglasses ready for them can help distract them as well. Plus, listening to calm music can help the patient relax, whether it’s through headphones or a speaker. 

Reduce the Number of Appointments

Once the patient is in the treatment chair, speaking with them and explaining that you want to minimize the number of visits will provide them with relief. Having a quick but not rushed procedure is also beneficial. Making the process as quick and comfortable for the patient as possible helps to reduce dental anxiety. Knowing they won’t need to return for months once they leave the practice can set their mind at ease.

Briefing the patient about what the procedure will involve will also reduce anxiety. Once the first appointment is complete and the patient hasn’t experienced any unexpected surprises, coming back for another appointment will be easier. 

If there are no issues that need immediate treatment, then starting the patient off with a simple cleaning or checkup is recommended. These procedures are a lot less anxiety-inducing than others, such as filling or extracting a tooth. The patient also will be more likely to return if the first experience is pleasant.

Sedation and Medication

If the patient suffers from severe dental anxiety or phobia, antianxiety medication and conscious sedation may be necessary. This can include using nitrous oxide to calm the patient or even deep sleep treatment in some cases.

Nitrous oxide can be used to relax the patient for the first few sessions. Once they have been treated a few times and feel calmer about the experience, though, the patient will be more willing to be treated without any sedation.

Dental anxiety and dental phobia affect a significant minority of adults, which can be a major cause of dental issues. There is no specific alleviation for dental anxiety. Treatment will depend on the individual patient as well as on the severity of the anxiety.

Utilizing a combination of human emotion and sedation techniques if necessary is useful. However, articulating a genuine interest in the patient and trying to understand them showcases your concern and can go a long way in convincing them that they are in a safe and caring environment.

Mr. McPhillips is a content writer for Dental Arch, which provides support, education, and guidance, to aspiring dental professionals. He can be reached at

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