Healthy body

Fear of the dentist

Many people feel nervous or afraid of visiting the dentist, but there are things you can try to help overcome your fear.

Tips to ease dental fear

If you're anxious about seeing the dentist, here are some tips to ease the fear:

  • Find an understanding dentist. Ask friends and family, or look for someone who specialises in treating anxious patients. Search for your local dentists here.
  • Once you've found someone you think may be suitable, visit the surgery to have a look around, meet the receptionist and dentist and see the environment. Tell the dentist that you're anxious and what your fears are, so they know beforehand.
  • Pick an appointment time early in the morning so you have less time to dwell on it.
  • The first appointment will simply be a check-up so don't worry about having any treatment. See this first visit as your chance to get to know the dentist.
  • Take a friend with you to your appointment. The dentist won't mind if they accompany you throughout the check-up or treatment.
  • Agree a sign with the dentist to signal that you need a break and want them to stop. It can be as simple as pointing your finger, and will help you feel more in control.
  • If you think it will help, start gradually with a clean and polish then work up to other treatments, such as fillings, once you've built up trust and rapport with your dentist.
  • Talk to the dentist about using a numbing gel if you have a fear of needles.
  • Use headphones to listen to music during your visit. It may help you relax.

NHS sedation clinics 

If you're extremely nervous, ask your dentist to refer you to an NHS sedation clinic. These clinics are specifically for nervous dental patients. 

Some people find simple inhalation sedation very helpful to relax them for dental treatment. This is a bit like gas and air given during childbirth, but instead of being delivered through a mask it comes through a nosepiece.

You might also be given sedative tablets to take by mouth before your appointment.

If you're extremely nervous you may prefer sedation through an injection into your hand or arm (intravenously) during treatment. The drugs won't send you to sleep – you'll be awake and able to talk to the dentist – but they'll calm and relax you so deeply you probably won't remember much of what happened.

Common dental Q&As

Read the answers to common dental health questions.

Page last reviewed: 19/10/2018
Next review due: 19/10/2021