What are the Symptoms of Dental Anxiety?

What are the Symptoms of Dental Anxiety?

Not wanting to go to the dentist isn’t always about fear and anxiety. Sometimes you just don’t want to do it. It’s not always fun or exciting, and it can feel strange to have someone poking around in your mouth. But for some patients, it’s not about wanting to do something else. They dread going because of their very real dental anxiety.

How can you tell the difference between simply not wanting to do something and feeling anxious about? Everyone is different, but these are the general symptoms of dental anxiety and their causes.

Symptoms of Dental Anxiety

Symptoms of Dental AnxietyWhen under stress, physically or mentally, everyone reacts in their own unique way. We all exhibit some combination of these symptoms when we’re worried or anxious. If you experience any of these when thinking about going to the dentist, making your appointment, or sitting in the office, you likely have dental anxiety.

  • Sweating
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Heart palpitations
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fainting
  • Crying
  • Panic attacks
  • Anger
  • Visible distress
  • Withdrawal, not speaking to anyone
  • Aggression
  • Trouble sleeping before your appointment
  • Nervousness that gets worse over time
  • Constant, nagging worry
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Racing thoughts

Dental anxiety can be triggered by any number of things including thinking about, seeing, or feeling needles, hearing or seeing dental drills, sitting in the exam room, or even driving to your dentist or making the appointment. If this dental anxiety gets so bad that you have an irrational fear of the dentist and refuse to go for any reason, you may have a dental phobia. This is much rarer but still very real.

Dental anxiety may occur on its own or it may happen in conjunction with other mental illnesses and health conditions:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder

If you’re already under the care of a doctor or mental health professional, let them know about your dental anxiety. They may be able to help you work through your fears or prescribe an appropriate anxiety medication.

How to Deal with Dental Anxiety

How to Deal with Dental AnxietyAsk anyone with anxiety, and they’ll tell you that it’s not as easy as just “getting over it” to stop feeling anxious. It requires a lot of work, effort, and time. Your doctor and/or therapist isn’t the only one who can help you, though. A well-qualified, caring dentist can help, too.

Talk about your fears. Let your dentist know that you’re anxious. They can help you address your worries, better prepare you for a procedure, and spend more time making sure you’re comfortable during the procedure. If possible, make an appointment just to meet your dentist and talk to them about your anxieties before your first check-up.

Bring a friend. When you have to go to the dentist, bring someone who you feel relaxed with or someone who provides comfort. Let the office know, and we’ll make sure they can sit in the exam area with you as much as possible.

Consider using dental sedation. For low-level dental anxiety, nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is non-invasive, safe option to help you relax. If you need something stronger, oral sedation may be the best option for you.

Find a caring, understanding dentist. If you don’t feel like your current dentist cares about your dental anxieties, it’s time to find someone who does. Your anxieties and fears can be detrimental to your dental health, so you need someone willing to take the time to help you and make sure you get the best dental care in Phoenix or Mesa.


Dental anxiety doesn’t have to keep you from having a healthy mouth and beautiful smile. Recognizing the symptoms of dental anxiety will help you deal with your fears and, hopefully, overcome them. Good dental care should help you feel more relaxed instead of making your fears and anxieties worse. You don’t have to suffer through this alone. Talk to your dentist about how they can help you get the dental care you need.