Tips for Dealing with Dental Anxiety

How do I relax at the dentist?

It’s been estimated that as many as 40 million Americans avoid going to the dentist due to dental anxiety. If you are one of these 40 million Americans neglecting to make and follow up on regular checkups and exams, you’re not alone. The good news is there are plenty of resources to help you make the most of your anxiety while making sure your oral health is still a priority.

The easiest way to avoid having to visit the dentist for potentially painful problems is to maintain a regular schedule of checkups and cleanings. With so many treatment options available and state-of-the-art technology that can prevent and protect you from serious complications, there’s no reason not to visit the dentist for regular checkups to prevent cavities, oral cancer, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. In fact, neglecting regular checkups usually leads to more serious problems which are harder to manage with dental anxiety.

Read on to discover our tips for dealing with anxiety about visiting the dentist.

1. Tune It Out and Breathe Slowly

Music is known to have a calming effect on the nerves and the mind in stressful situations. We welcome our patients to bring headphones to their appointments to help them relax. If you’re experiencing dental anxiety, calming music or a Spotify playlist featuring instrumental songs can help calm your nerves and ease any discomfort. It can also help take your mind off of the dental procedure and allow you to loosen up.

Our Favorite Spotify Playlist: In My Fillings


2. Choose the Right Foods to Eat Before Going to the Dentist

Some foods and beverages can cause or exacerbate anxiety, so if you’re feeling anxious about an upcoming dental appointment, be sure to choose the right foods to keep anxiety at bay. Healthy, whole foods like fresh fruits and veggies are the optimum choice, but if you can’t make a fresh salad, try snacking on almonds or a granola bar with as little added sugar and as much protein as possible. There are a few specific foods that can make anxiety worse (aka foods to avoid before going to the dentist). Here’s what you need to know.



Foods that Cause Anxiety

Avoiding Alcohol and Caffeine for Anxiety

While some people may be tempted to reach for a beer or a cocktail to calm their nerves, research indicates alcohol and caffeine are two of the worst things you can consume if you want to avoid anxiety. Alcohol and caffeine have been shown to increase heart rate, which can also increase anxiety, nervousness, and jitteriness. In addition to making your heart race, alcohol and caffeine can cause dehydration and affect the chemicals in our brains, both of which have been known to cause feelings of anxiety.

Avoiding Dairy, Gluten, and Meat for Anxiety

For many people, cheese and bread are comfort foods, but for those with gluten and dairy sensitivities, their favorite foods may be causing anxiety, digestive issues, acne, headaches, and more. If you suspect your anxiety might be worse following meals with certain foods, be sure to avoid those prior to visiting the dentist. Cultured foods as well as those that have been fermented or cured have also been known to cause anxiety and insomnia in individuals susceptible to sensitivity to these types of foods.

Avoiding Fast Foods and Processed Foods for Anxiety

Even on your best day, fast food and processed meals can make you feel bad, but if you’re attempting to avoid discomfort and anxiety for a visit to the dentist or the doctor, it’s especially important to cut these types of foods out of your diet. Food is fuel for our bodies, and whole, healthy foods provide the best fuel, while overly processed, fake foods obviously do not.

3. Choose a Dentist Who Understands Dental Anxiety

A dentist who understands dental anxiety can be your biggest resource if you are putting off regular visits to the dentist due to the fear of pain or dental anxiety. Many dental providers now offer treatments that are intended to help patients rest and relax during their visit. From warm blankets to calming music, it’s not hard to find a dentist who values your comfort as much as your oral health.

Preventing Pain from Dental Procedures

If you struggle with dental anxiety, find a dentist who offers sedation dentistry for patients with anxiety. Many dentists have experience with patients who are nervous at the dentist, and they can help make you feel calm and comfortable. With oral conscious sedation, you have the option of taking a mild oral sedative that allows you to remain awake for a procedure while minimizing pain and discomfort. While you will need a friend or family member to drive you home following the procedure, the effects of the sedative will subside after just a few hours.



Choose a Dentist with Great Reviews

With more than 95 Google reviews and more than 720 Demand Force reviews, you don’t have to take our word for it that we understand the importance of patient comfort and care. During any procedure, a trained dental hygienist will be there to help monitor your comfort and provide a soft blanket, a hand to hold, or an additional dose of pain medication to ensure you are as relaxed as possible.



This article was reviewed by Dr. Miles Moore of Memphis Center for Family and Cosmetic Dentistry. Dr. Moore is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists who has received extensive training in implant dentistry. He is a member of multiple dental organizations, including the American Dental Association, the American Academy of General Dentistry, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and the Memphis Dental Society.


Posted by Miles Moore at 7:51 AM
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