Harvard Health Publications

Dental fear? Our readers suggest coping techniques.

Posted By Ann MacDonald On August 25, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the topic of dental phobia. Fear of the dentist is incredibly common, with surveys estimating that it affects 13% to 24% of people around the world. For many people, dental anxiety is disturbing but not disabling. But some are so terrorized at the thought of going to the dentist that they avoid the experience altogether–until the reality of an aching tooth or infection necessitates a visit.

In my first post, I asked readers to send in suggestions about how they cope with their own fears. As promised, I’m now posting some helpful replies we received. If you have other suggestions, submit a comment below this post. I appreciate your help (and so will the readers of this blog).

As an aside, I stumbled onto a wonderful online resource for people who are afraid of the dentist (and I am one of them!): Dental Fear Central. This nonprofit site offers lots of helpful advice, tips, and online forums where you can ask questions of other people dealing with their own dental fear.

Meanwhile, here are some suggestions from our readers:

“I listen with a headset to laugh-aloud funny books or podcasts when I am in the waiting room and in the dental chair. I try not to get to the appointment too early, as sitting in the waiting room can increase my anxiety. And while waiting, I practice relaxation breathing.” — Suzanne

“I bring my iPod and play nice soothing music, or a book on MP3.” — Heather

“Have the dentist explain everything before doing it. Make the patient become the assistant, such as asking him or her to ‘hand me this or that,’ etc. Make sure there is a nice scent in the treatment room, and listen to catchy, familiar, calming music–something with a subliminal connection — a song everyone knows the words to. It would be nice if the dentist put something fascinating to look at on the ceiling.” — Nancy

“My dentist has televisions situated on the ceiling of his office so that when he leans his patients back in the chair, they are able to watch television. This serves as a decent distraction from the fact that you are in the dentist office and has manged to alleviate tensions associated with dental visits for my whole family.” — Blaine

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