Symptoms, Causes and Overcoming Your Dental Anxiety

Symptoms, Causes and Overcoming Your Dental Anxiety

Dentist appointments are a common source of anxiety for a lot of people. In fact, dental anxiety, or dental fear, is estimated to affect approximately 36% of the population, with a further 12% suffering from extreme dental fear [1]. With almost half the population suffering from some kind of anxiety or phobia surrounding dental treatment, knowing that you aren’t alone can help alleviate the problem.

Common Symptoms of Dental Anxiety:

Dental anxiety can manifest in various ways, and it’s essential to be aware of the common signs and symptoms. By recognizing these signs, you can take proactive steps to address your anxiety and make your dental appointments more comfortable and manageable.

  • Sweating: One of the telltale signs of dental anxiety is excessive sweating. When you’re anxious, your body’s “fight or flight” response can be triggered, leading to increased perspiration.
  • High or Low Blood Pressure: Anxiety can affect your blood pressure, causing it to spike or drop. Some individuals may experience a rapid rise in blood pressure, leading to hypertension, while others might have a decrease in blood pressure, resulting in feelings of lightheadedness and dizziness.
  • A Nervous System on Edge: Dental anxiety can put your nervous system on high alert. This heightened state of arousal can lead to restlessness, fidgeting, or an inability to sit still in the dental chair. These physical manifestations are entirely understandable reactions to anxiety.
  • Heart Palpitations: Anxiety can significantly impact your heart rate. You may feel palpitations, where your heart seems to beat irregularly or more rapidly than usual. An elevated pulse rate is also a common physiological response to stress and anxiety.
  • Trouble Sleeping Before Your Appointment: The anticipation of an upcoming dental appointment can disrupt your sleep patterns. Many individuals with dental anxiety report difficulty falling asleep or experiencing restless nights leading up to their scheduled visit.

In severe cases of dental anxiety, individuals may go to great lengths to avoid dental appointments altogether. This avoidance behaviour can lead to worsening oral health and the need for more complex dental treatments down the line. It’s important to understand that dental anxiety is a common issue, and that there are strategies and techniques available to help you overcome it.

Overcoming Dental Anxiety through Communication

Causes of Dental Anxiety:

A common reason people might avoid going to the dentist is that they are worried about pain. Luckily, with modern treatment techniques and anesthetics, dentists can alleviate some of the discomfort that can come with certain dental procedures. Local anaesthetic, topical anaesthetic, ice, oral rinses, and over-the-counter medication like Advil or ibuprofen will greatly diminish any discomfort you may possibly feel during or after a procedure.

Your dentist also can prescribe anti-anxiety medications as well, such as Lorazepam (Ativan) or other benzodiazepines, that you can take before your appointment that help you relax and feel more at ease. Some dental offices also may recommend something called nitrous oxide (otherwise known as “laughing gas”), which can help with anxiety as well. When you’re using nitrous oxide sedation, you still have control over your bodily functions, and it is only used during the procedure, so you don’t have to worry about after-effects. For more invasive surgeries, such as wisdom teeth removal or surgeries of the jaw, moderate or general anaesthesia may be an option too. Make sure to talk to your dentist about any health conditions you may have or medications you’re on if you decide to go with one of these options to help curb your dental anxiety.

Another common source of dental anxiety is the price. With many Canadians struggling to pay their bills, the possibility of a dentist appointment’s cost being a financial burden is a growing possibility. Many Canadians cannot afford a their dental treatment bill, so they avoid going to a dentist. However, this only compounds existing problems, and increases the price when an emergency appointment is ultimately necessary.

Simpli Dental offers prices less than the College of Dental Surgeons of Saskatchewan and Alberta Dental Association’s suggested fee recommendations, while still offering the same excellent service expected at the dentist. We try to keep our costs low, and helps save you money. However, for additional financial assistance, Simpli Dental also offers payment plans and dental treatment financing options through DentalCard, a simple way to pay for your dental costs. Please contact us for details.

Overcoming Dental Anxiety through Communication:

One of the most effective ways to overcome dental anxiety is through open communication with your dentist or hygienist. Don’t hesitate to express your fears and concerns about your appointment, even if it’s just a routine cleaning. Dental professionals are well-aware of the prevalence of dental anxiety, and they are trained to provide a supportive and understanding environment for their patients.

When you discuss your anxiety with your dentist, they can tailor their approach to ensure your comfort. They may take extra time to explain the procedures, answer your questions, and provide reassurance. Some dentists even offer the option of a “tell-show-do” approach [2], where they explain each step of the procedure before they begin, allowing you to feel more in control of the situation. And if you are someone who doesn’t want to know what is happening, that’s fine too!

Additionally, dentists may offer relaxation techniques or distractions during your appointment. This can include playing calming music, providing sensory distractions, or using aromatherapy to create a soothing atmosphere in the dental office. By working together with your dental team, you can gradually build trust and confidence in the dental setting, making future appointments less anxiety-inducing.

Conquering Your Dental Anxiety:

Don’t be afraid to talk to your dentist or hygienist about any anxiety you may have about your appointment, even if it’s a cleaning. They will be more than open to accommodating you and going at a pace you feel comfortable with. At Simpli Dental, your comfort is important to us and we want to make going to the dentist a comfortable experience for you and your family. As uncomfortable as it may seem, regular dental check-ups will save you in the long run, and the more you go to the dentist, the easier future appointments will be.


[1] National Library of Medicine – Why Are People Afraid of the Dentist? Observations and Explanations.

[2] Dental Fear Central – Tell-Show-Do.