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What Is Dental Anxiety?

Dental anxiety is the fear or anxiety about dental appointments or the dentist. Dental anxiety isn’t just about major procedures like a tooth extraction. In fact, it can cause extreme fear of a dental cleaning. Unfortunately, dental anxiety is relatively common. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it affects nearly 36% of adults in the U.S. 

People with dental anxiety are more likely to skip their routine dental visits and avoid the dentist altogether. Unfortunately, this puts them at a higher risk of developing serious dental issues, such as tooth decay or gum disease. Fortunately, there are ways to combat dental anxiety. 

Woman with hands on her face in fear, dentist behind her with tools dental anxiety sedation dentistry dentist in Virginia Beach Virginia

Treatment for Dental Anxiety

There are many ways that you and your dentist can minimize your anxiety and maximize your comfort during your dental appointments. 


Sedation dentistry provides a way for patients to be more relaxed during their procedures. To do this, your dentist will administer sedatives either orally (with a pill) or intravenously (IV)

IV Sedation

With IV sedation, your dentist will give you anti-anxiety medication directly into your bloodstream. This means that it is a fast-acting method. With IV sedation, you will likely fall asleep during your procedure. However, your dental team will be able to rouse you easily. During your sedation and procedure, you will be relaxed and not feel any pain. 

With this method of sedation, you will need someone to drive you to and from your appointment. 

Oral Conscious Sedation

Oral conscious sedation is a form of sedation where you take a sedative pill before your appointment. Typically, it takes about an hour for you to begin feeling the effects of the medication. Unlike IV sedation, you will likely be awake during your procedure. However, you will be deeply relaxed. 

Again, you will need someone to bring you to and from your appointment because it is unsafe to operate heavy machinery under the influence of sedation. 

Bring a Trusted Person

A non-medicated way to cope with your dental anxiety is to bring a friend or trusted person. Support can go a long way in making you feel safe. When you feel safe, it helps reduce your fear and anxiety. Additionally, they can hold your hand or talk you through your procedure. 

Utilize a Distraction

If you can distract yourself, you may not focus on what your dentist is doing. This can help reduce your fears. For example, you can listen to music while your dentist is working. An audiobook can transport your mind to another place while your dentist proceeds. 

Talk to Your Dentist

The best method for treating dental anxiety is to talk to your dentist. They can supply you with resources to minimize your fear. Additionally, sometimes a conversation is enough to reduce your anxiety to get you in the dental chair. From there, your dentist can help treat your dental issues and your anxiety.