Getting over your dental anxiety

5 Expert Tips For Getting Over Your Dental Anxiety

WRITING: Randi Bergman

Scared of the dentist? You’re not the only one. Being afraid of someone getting up in your mouth is up there with all the great phobias: spiders, heights, the return of low waist jeans…

According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 36% of people in the U.S. share it with you. But whether you’re afraid of drills, needles, or simply losing control (see: low rise jeans), skipping the dentist can be more dangerous than you think. “Dental health is directly related to your overall systemic health,” says Dr. Jenn Tordjman, a Toronto-based Dentist. Gum disease, just one of the conditions you could develop without regular check-ups, has been linked to everything from diabetes to heart disease to adverse pregnancy outcomes. There’s also bad breath, discolouration and cavities to worry about, which can be equally as scary. But we’re not here to freak you out, we’re here to give you five foolproof tips for getting yourself into the dentist chair, stat. What better time to start a new self-care routine?

No. 1 | Find a professional you are comfortable with.

For better or worse, our first experiences with dentists likely shape our feelings about our teeth for life. A bad experience is enough to keep you running, which is why finding the right person for you is crucial. "It’s important to note that every individual’s anxiety may stem from a unique combination of these factors or other personal reasons.” 

After her own experience with a kind dentist coaxing her through multiple root canals in her teenage years, Tordjman learned how important the relationship between dentist and patient was. “In my practice, I encourage my patients to communicate any fear or discomfort they may have at the start of their appointment so that we can work together to overcome these challenges,” she says. “An open channel of communication allows our patients to feel like they have control, which may help to reduce fear and anxiety.”

No. 2 | Practice mindfulness.

You can only address fears that you are aware of, so getting in touch with what scares you is essential to breaking down those barriers. If the fear is severe, you might consider talking to a therapist about it. Otherwise, try a simple meditation before your appointment:

  • Breathe deeply, in through your nose and out through your mouth.

  • Place one hand on your stomach to feel your breathing though your body.

  • Relax your shoulders, your neck and your jaw (remove your tongue from the roof of your mouth, too)

  • Take time to notice anything that comes up while breathing. Share it with your dentist.

No. 3 | Distract yourself.

If you’re still feeling anxious, find another way to occupy your thoughts while sitting in the dentist’s chair. Most routine procedures shouldn’t last more than an hour, which is enough time to finish the latest episode of your favourite podcast, or a few chapters of that audiobook you’ve been meaning to finish. Your dentist might provide other services, such as TVs, soothing music, and the like, which you can inquire about.

No. 4 | Take breaks.

Dr. Camila Villarreal, another Toronto-based dentist, is trained to spot anxiety within her patients. “At our clinic, we always ask our patients if they’re feeling comfortable and if they need a break,” she says. “We find this always creates a trusting environment with our patients.” Before your appointment, discuss a signal your dentist or hygienist can spot, like raising a hand or finger. Only continue the appointment when you are ready.

No. 5 | Schedule your next appointment before you leave the office.

You’re more likely to stick to your new routine if you’ve settled on a pre-arranged date in advance. Before leaving the office, make sure you’ve locked it down. Your entire bod will thank you. 

Want more expert-backed oral hygiene advice? Follow us at @itsstimmie for a daily dose.


The content provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional advice and in-person consultation. It is provided with the understanding that STIM MIE INC. ("Stimmie") is not engaged in the provision or rendering of dental advice or services. Although monitored and written in collaboration with licensed dental professionals, the opinions and content included in these articles are general and not patient-specific. You understand and agree that Stimmie shall not be liable for any claim, loss, or damage arising out of the use of, or reliance upon, any content or information in our written materials.
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