Dental Anxiety? What are the Symptoms, Types and Treatments

What is Dental Anxiety?

What are the Symptoms and Types of Dental Anxiety?

What is Dental anxiety?

Dental anxiety is a very common fear or stress that exists in most patients at some level, mostly experienced when they are going to the dentist.

We have noticed that it is a spectrum of fear, anxiety disorders, general anxiety, or stress which is associated with dental treatment during dental appointments and its processes.

It depends on the level and type, sometimes it can restrict the patients from visiting the dentist. In some cases, due to this anxiety people keep on delaying their visit to the dentist which results in bigger dental problem/s and makes it an emergency to visit the dental clinic. Things like a needle, drill, dental tools, procedures or a past negative dental experience are the most common reasons that can trigger Dental Anxiety.

The problem arises when the patient experiences a severe kind of anxiety and irrational fear to even book an appointment with the dentist is classified as Dental Phobia. Dental phobia is less common, where the dentist might need to consult with your doctor on how to overcome the phobia. In some cases, patient need to have to recommended type of sedation, in order for them to have dental work.

May it be anxiety, fear, or phobia, avoiding a dentist or dental hygienist can result in serious dental disease which in the worst condition calls for an emergency visit or more complex treatment. It is better to visit the dental professional regularly so that the dentist thoroughly checks, cleans, and spot any dental issue in the early stage, so they can be fixed in timely manner.

Effective Strategies to Manage Dental Anxiety

During the regular checkups, the dentist performs a dental exam where he checks the teeth and gums and comes up with a treatment plan to treat the dental concerns.

Most of the dental problems are associated with lifestyle and poor oral hygiene (at home or lack of professional hygiene). If the patient does not pay attention to the smaller issue and keeps on avoiding the dental visit, it is more likely to call for a more complex procedure in the future. 

What are the symptoms?

People who suffer from dental anxiety may experience

  • Signs of panic.
  • Crying or hiding.
  • Visible distress.
  • Extreme sweating.
  • Fast heartbeat.
  • Simply withdraws.
  • Diverting the mind using humor or aggression.
  • Low blood pressure or fainting.
  • Stomachaches

These are the common symptoms an anxious patient either shows at the dental office or they would simply avoid making appointments because of the symptoms

Types of Dental Anxieties

Needle and Drilling phobia

The most common fear or anxiety some people face is from needles and drilling. Some of them can’t even stand the noise. They experience this fear when making an appointment for cleaning, scaling, or any other dental procedure. This fear can turn into phobia if it is not addressed.

Fear of Pain/ Discomfort

Most people fear that they can experience pain or discomfort during the dental procedure. In some cases, the fear of pain and discomfort makes them anxious even for a regular dental checkup or periodontal exam. However, if this fear turns into a phobia, the patient can generalize the idea of pain to be much worse.

Uncertain anxiety

It would be better to call it the fear of the unknown. Some people may have never had a tooth drilling or any other dental procedure but they fear and get scared simply because they don’t know what will be the process. It also triggers when they listen to someone else’s treatment story or a negative dental experience and they can fear that this is going to happen to them as well.

A negative or bad experience at the dental clinic in childhood can still haunt them in their adult life. They can still recall the same pain and ca get terrified or triggered, so they avoid visiting a dental clinic.

Fear of loss of control

Some people perceive that sitting on the dental chair for a long time will make them helpless. This fear of feeling losing control can be daunting. They can feel terrified to sit on the dental chair because they assume they have to keep going no matter what and there is no going back.

Fear of Anesthesia (side effects or the feeling of numbing)

Not only do needles and drills make patients afraid of visiting a dentist but they can also have anxiety about the feeling of numbness caused by the local anesthesia. Some patients have the fear and assumption that potential side effects from anesthetics can keep them away from getting any treatment.

Religious/ cultural beliefs

Sometimes patients can avoid treatment due to the close proximity of male/female practitioners. Some patients can feel uncomfortable lying down and having other people around them.  Dental phobia and dental fear may not just be related to the treatment itself but other social issues or concerns.  Going to the dentist for some people isn’t just about dental fear, but other fears and concerns.  

Low self-esteem due to poor oral health

Some patients feel embarrassed to seek professional dental help since they assume that there is nothing that can be done anymore, or they can be judged for their lack of oral care and neglect.

Many such patients may have also been misled in the past by others who have said things that are incorrect but can produce fear.  Certain dental procedures and stressful dental treatments may cause people to have mild or severe anxiety about seeing the dentist.  

Financial anxiety around the cost of the treatment

Some of the dental treatments are a bit expensive compared to any other treatments. People who do not have dental insurance coverage either because they are struggling entrepreneurs or have no job hesitate to visit the dental office. Procedures like dental implants and braces can cost thousands of dollars which makes them anxious and restrict visiting the dentist.

Fear of invasion of privacy/ Low self-esteem due to poor oral health

Some people are ashamed of their dental health and hygiene and they don’t feel like opening their mouth in front of a dentist or hygienist. This anxiety keeps them away from making an appointment to see a dentist. Some people have the anxiety of what if someone finds out. Or their dental information might get shared somehow.

Relaxation techniques and conscious sedation are both methods that we can use to help patients have a better experience. When you are in the Dentist’s chair it doesn’t have to always be trepidatious.  

Check out our article on managing and overcoming dental anxiety

Fear of having treatment by a non-skilled practitioner

Some patients do not feel confident going to the dentist simply because they cannot trust the dentist. They have doubts about their skills and feel anxious that they would not do or recommend the right treatment.

This could be due to any past negative dental experience of themselves or someone they know might have shared with them.  Mental disorders and/or an anxiety disorder aren’t always the source of concern…sometimes it’s simply previous experience or fear. 


Some people suffer from dental anxiety before and during a dental appointment which can prevent them from visiting the dental clinic for professional dental care. We want to make sure that our patients know that their level or type of anxiety is VALID!

At Clean Smiles Dental, we like to empower our patients who are struggling with any dental anxiety or concern regarding their dental treatment and visit with us. We are here to offer solutions to provide the best dental treatment by managing their dental anxiety.

Each of these types of anxiety has a possible solution at Clean Smiles Dental Hygiene Clinic. If we are unable to provide the dental solution; for example, a certain kind of sedation that might be best suited for your need, then we will certainly guide you in the right direction. Our main goal is for each patient to be able to get best dental care that they need and deserve.

Here at the Clean smiles dental hygiene clinic, we have compassionate, skilled and experienced dentist and hygienists who can provide the best suited dental treatment by managing your dental anxiety. If you are looking for a clinic in Edmonton, we are here to provide you a free consultation session where you can discuss your fear and anxieties and together, we can with a best suited solution to get you the best dental care you need and deserve. Book your appointment now at (780) 800-6655

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