Tips for Treating Anxious Patients

by Renae Sweeney, DMD

Did you know that dental fear and anxiety are estimated to affect approximately 36% of the population, with a further 12% suffering from extreme dental fear?! This anxiety can have serious repercussions in terms of an individual’s oral health and quality of life, and often manifests as avoidance for dental visits.

So how can we help?! Get to know the patient, make them feel welcome and comfortable. Show them you care by getting to know them and finding out what triggers their fear and anxiety. Empathy and compassion can go a long way. It will help the patient to relax when they feel their dentist really listens and understands their concerns. Follow these tips for a happier, healthier patient and more seamless appointment!

  • Schedule patients with dental anxiety in the morning, as afternoon appointments leave them more time to worry and only serve to increase their anxiety
  • Offer food and/or beverages


  • Play soft, calming music or allow patients’ to play music that makes them most comfortable
  • Close doors to help mask smells and sounds, and utilize free-standing or automatic air fresheners or diffusers
  • Coach patients through breathing techniques like diaphragmatic breath, to encourage physical relaxation
  • Use distraction techniques such as guided imagery during injections or other procedures that may trigger their fear/anxiety

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