Ways to Combat Dental Anxiety

Written by Dr. Follette on Jun 15, 2019

For the most part, people young and old are comfortable and confident during treatment with our Santa Monica dentist. However, for some patients dental anxiety is a real concern, and one that Carol E. Follett DDS takes seriously. If you’re someone who dreads the dentist’s chair, here’s some advice for reducing your dental anxiety.

What Is Dental Anxiety?

It’s estimated that 5% – 8% of Americans suffer from dental anxiety and avoid the dentist under any circumstances. Moreover, another 20% of people possess a lower level of dental anxiety that keeps them from seeking dental care unless it’s absolutely necessary.


Two main causes of dental anxiety have been identified. The biggest, and one that applies to roughly two-thirds of anxiety sufferers, is a bad experience in a dentist’s office. The second cause is related to clinical conditions like anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress, and substance abuse. Across both causes, an overarching theme is the inability to control the situation due to being prone in the dentist’s chair, where it’s difficult to move or talk.

Ways To Reduce Dental Anxiety

There are a few ways to reduce dental anxiety, some of which are patient-specific and others that are dentist-related.


Many of the most effective solutions for dental anxiety pertain to communication techniques that a dentist will use to ease an anxious patient’s mind. For example:


  • Telling the patient they can leave at any time (seldom will a patient accept this offer, but many people like the fact that they’ve been given the choice)
  • “Narrating” the dental procedure, i.e. telling the patient what’s coming next, how it will feel, and how long it will last
  • Periodically asking the patient for permission to continue the procedure
  • Allowing the patient to pause the procedure if they start feeling uncomfortable. In some cases, the dentist and patient will agree to a cue, i.e. the patient raising his right hand when he wants to pause.
  • Making time for breaks at certain intervals of the procedure


From a patient’s perspective, there are some steps to be taken that can increase in-chair comfort and peace of mind. These include:

  • Asking a friend or relative to join at the first dental visit. This could mean having the person close by in the waiting room, or sitting in on the procedure.
  • Talk with the dentist about available/appropriate sedatives for the procedure to be conducted: local anesthetic, oral sedative, or nitrous oxide, depending on the dentist’s opinion
  • For many patients, listening to music on headphones brings added comfort – especially a new album that heightens interest level and takes the patient’s mind from the procedure
  • Relaxation techniques are beneficial: progressive muscle relaxation (which involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups) and controlled breathing (helps to slow the heartbeat and relax the body) are two of the most popular


Visit Carol E. Follett DDS and Leave Your Worries Behind

If you’ve been searching online for a “dentist near me” who takes a de-stressing, patient-focused approach to dentistry, Carol E. Follett DDS is the ideal choice. We provide a comfortable, relaxed environment that helps patients feel good about the dental care they need.