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Top tips and techniques to overcome the fear of the dentist

Top tips and techniques to overcome the fear of the dentist
Top tips and techniques to overcome the fear of the dentist

If you fear going to the dentist, you are not alone. Fear of the dentist is very common. In the UK’s Adult Dental Health Survey (2009), 12% of adults had extreme dental anxiety, while 36% had moderate dental anxiety.

If you get hot and sweaty just thinking about booking a dental visit, there are tips and techniques further down for you that will help you manage it. However, extreme dental anxiety or dental phobia is something we at Bow Lane take very seriously. Some of the patients who suffer from it do everything possible to avoid going to the dentist and will usually only go when forced to do so by extreme pain or swelling.

Do you know the difference between dental anxiety, fear and phobia?

People often use the terms dental anxiety, fear and phobia to mean the same thing. Sometimes they use them to express severity, which ranges from mild (anxiety) to more extreme (phobia). At other times, “dental phobia” is used to describe an extreme fear that is seemingly irrational and particularly hard to overcome.

  • Dental anxiety is anxiety or stress associated with a dental setting. Most people have some degree of dental anxiety, especially if they’re facing a procedure which is new to them. Often, it’s a fear of the unknown – the “uncertainty factor”.

  • Dental fear tends to be far more specific. If somebody has a fear, they can usually tell you what exactly it is they’re scared of. Dental fear typically starts in childhood or it’s transferred from parents. 

  • If someone suffers from dental phobia, the terror they feel is so intense that they avoid the dentist until either the physical pain or the emotional burden of the phobia becomes overwhelming. People with dental phobia have an awareness that the fear is totally irrational, but are unable to do much about it. It leaves people panic-stricken and terrified. Some people, for various reasons, may still attend a dentist. But they will endure these encounters with intense fear or anxiety.

If you suffer from dental fear or phobia you’ll tend to avoid the dentist and neglect your oral health, which may lead to painful dental problems and ultimately, a forced visit to the dentist. The emergency nature of this appointment may serve to worsen your phobia. This phenomenon may also be called the cycle of dental fear

Vicious circle of dental fear

To avoid this from happening, follow our tips to begin moving past your dental fears.

Tips to combat dental anxiety

Take your time, no rush

We are never in a rush, we allow enough time to listen to you. You can take a break at any time during your appointment just let your dentist know you'd like them to stop and take a break.


We’ve installed TVs in all our surgery ceilings paired with noise-cancellation headphones, so you can distract yourself whilst catching up with your favourite shows. Who knew you could ‘Netflix and chill’ at your favourite dental practice! 

We can also connect you to your favourite podcast or if you prefer, you can use the headphones to simply listen to some relaxing music.

Ask us for sedation options

We’re installing nitrous oxide (commonly referred to as laughing gas) in our new surgeries. Many patients appreciate its calming quality and have reported that having access to it allows them to be calmer when thinking about going to the dentist. 

In addition to nitrous oxide, we have intravenous sedation given by our consultant anaesthetist. Please ask your dentist to help advise which will be the best option for you and your treatment.

Use some of these relaxation techniques during your visit

You’ll be surprised how much control you have over your anxiety when you find a helpful calming method. When people are nervous, they tend to hold their breath, which decreases oxygen levels and further increases feelings of panic. As in some meditation techniques, a focus on slow, regular breathing helps reduce stress levels. 

Share your fears with us

Our dentists are used to treating anxious patients. If you are tense or anxious be sure to tell the dentist and this will enable them to adapt the treatment to your needs. We are here to listen to you and give you the best care tailored to your own needs.

Make your next appointment before you leave Bow Lane

You’re more likely to come for a follow-up appointment if you don’t have to contact the office later to schedule it. 

Ultimately, managing your dental anxiety will involve a combination of the above. As a private dentist in London, we have treated thousands of anxious and nervous patients. ​​We pride ourselves on giving our patients the most pleasant dental experience which will enable them to overcome any fears and maintain their teeth for the rest of their lives.

Give us a call at 020 7236 3600 or email us at to book your appointment.  

The whole idea is to make the visit as comfortable as possible and get you to actually look forward to visiting the team at Bow Lane

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