What is Dental Anxiety? Causes & Solutions

Feb 28, 2024

Fear of the Dentist? You’re not alone! In fact, 16.1% of Australians experience ‘high dental fear’, according to a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia titled "Dental fear in Australia: who's afraid of the dentist?" When you balance your fear of going to the dentist with the importance of your oral health, the latter has to win out. It's easier said than done, we know. 

One of the best ways to manage dental fear and anxiety is understanding where it comes from, and having a better idea of the procedure you need to get your smile up to standard. At Ageless Smiles Dental Centre, we have a team of dentists that will guide through the process and try to ease your anxieties every step of the way.

Dental Fear, Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia

Dental anxiety, also known as dental fear or dental phobia, is a spectrum of emotions ranging from mild apprehension to intense fear and panic associated with dental visits. This fear can be triggered by various factors and significantly impact oral health.

These terms are often used interchangeably, but subtle distinctions exist:

  • Dental fear is a general feeling of apprehension or nervousness about dental procedures.
  • Dental anxiety is a more intense and persistent fear that can cause significant distress and makes you want to avoid the dentist completely.
  • Dental phobia is an extreme fear that triggers panic attacks and makes dental visits nearly impossible.

By understanding your triggers, exploring various management strategies, and seeking support from your dentist and other resources, you can effectively overcome dental anxiety and prioritise your oral health. Remember, conquering dental fear is achievable, and a brighter, healthier smile awaits!

 5 Dental Anxiety Sources and How to Overcome Them

We’re made a list of the most common reasons why people are scared of the dentist, from pain, to childhood trauma or experiencing sensory overload with the noises and the smells. 

Causes and Solutions of Dental Anxiety




Fear of pain or discomfort

* Communicate with your dentist: Let them know about your concerns and ask about pain management options like numbing gel, local anaesthesia, or sedation dentistry. 

* Relaxation techniques: Practice deep breathing, listen to calming music, or visualize a peaceful scene before and during your appointment. 

* Distraction: Bring headphones and listen to music or podcasts, or watch a movie on a screen provided by the dentist's office.

Fear of needles or injections

* Ask for numbing cream: This can be applied before the injection to minimize discomfort. 

* Look away: Avoid watching the needle and focus on something else during the injection. 

* Talk to your dentist: Let them know you're anxious about needles and ask for slower, gentler injections.

Loss of control

* Ask questions: Don't hesitate to ask your dentist about the procedure and what to expect at each step. 

* Hand signals: Agree on a hand signal with your dentist to indicate discomfort or need for a break. 

* Bring a support person: Having a trusted friend or family member present can provide comfort and a sense of security.

Embarrassment about the state of one's teeth

* Remember, dentists see all kinds of teeth: Be open and honest about your concerns, and trust that your dentist is there to help you improve your oral health, not judge you. 

* Focus on the future: View the dental visit as an opportunity to improve your oral health and overall well-being. 

* Start with a consultation: If you're highly self-conscious, schedule a consultation first to discuss your concerns and treatment options in a relaxed setting.

Sensory overload from noises and smells

* Discuss sensitivities with your dentist: Let them know if you are sensitive to certain sounds or smells, and see if they can accommodate your needs by using quieter equipment or offering breaks during the appointment. 

* Bring noise-canceling headphones or earplugs: These can help block out some of the sounds associated with dental procedures. 

* Use aromatherapy: Applying a few drops of calming essential oil like lavender to a tissue and inhaling it during your appointment may help reduce anxiety.

How Dental Anxiety or Phobia can Affect Your Oral Health

Avoiding dental care due to fear can lead to:

  • Untreated cavities and gum disease: Neglecting regular checkups and cleanings can worsen existing problems.
  • Tooth loss: Unmanaged dental issues can progress to tooth loss, impacting oral function and aesthetics.
  • Pain and discomfort: Ignoring dental problems can lead to increased pain and discomfort.
  • Reduced quality of life: Dental problems can affect self-esteem, eating, and overall well-being.

Why is Going to Your Dental Appointment Important?

Regular dental checkups and cleanings are crucial for maintaining good oral health and preventing potential problems. Early detection and treatment of dental issues can save you time, money, and discomfort in the long run.

Remember, you're not alone! Many people experience dental anxiety, and seeking help is important to overcome your fear and prioritise your oral health.

FAQs About What is Dental Anxiety

What triggers dental anxiety?

Dental anxiety in Australia stems from various factors, with past negative experiences at the dentist, or even hearing stories from others, often acting as the initial trigger. This can turn into a fear of pain or discomfort, including being afraid of needles, which leads to feeling of loss of control during procedures. Additionally, concerns about embarrassment regarding the state of one's teeth and the sensory overload from clinical sights, sounds, and smells can all contribute to this common anxiety.

How common is dental anxiety?

Dental anxiety is surprisingly common, affecting millions of people worldwide. One in seven adults in Australia experience it, and   It's crucial to remember that you're not alone, and seeking help is a sign of strength and a commitment to your well-being. According to The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) around 40% of Americans experience some degree of dental anxiety, and that number goes up to 53% when talking about the UK.

How do I talk to my dentist about dental anxiety?

Talking to your dentist about your anxiety is the first step towards effective management. Share your fears and concerns without judgement, don't hesitate to ask about procedures, sedation options, or anything that worries you and collaborate with your dentist to develop a personalized plan that addresses your specific needs and anxieties. Remember that they are professionals and will understand your worries.