What can you do?
If you don’t have a dental hygienist or dental office that you visit regularly, start by taking the time to find a clinic that is a good fit for you.
Some of the ways to do this are:
Ask in your community
Ask friends, family, or colleagues if they would recommend their oral health practitioners.
Contact a few clinics
Take the time to email or call a few local clinics.
If you choose to call, ask if there is a team member who has the time to talk with you or could call you back.
Ask them questions, for example:
- Ask them how long their oral health practitioners have been working at the clinic.
- Ask them if some of them a dental anxiety training and specialization.
- Pay attention to how you feel when communicating with the reception staff.
- Did they take the time to answer your questions?
- Did you feel like they were giving you useful information?
Book a pre-appointment
Book an appointment to come in and chat with the oral health practitioner.
You can get to know the practitioner and ask specific questions.
Meeting them beforehand might help to reduce some of your anxiety about coming in for your next appointment.
When you make an appointment.
When you make an appointment, let the reception staff know about previous dental difficulties without getting into too many details about what happened.
Instead, tell them that you feel anxious about having dental treatment.
You can let them know, for example, that certain procedures, such as x-rays, or sounds are difficult for you.
Ask them to note your history in your file.
Another important thing to consider is to make the appointment at a time that is best suited for you.
Ask the reception staff if you need to come a few minutes earlier in order to fill out paperwork or if they can send it to you ahead of time via email for you to fill out at home.
Be clear with yourself about what your needs are for this appointment. Maybe write it down.
Then express your needs to the hygienist or dental staff so that they can help you be more at ease while in their care.
Once you have made an appointment
Once you have made an appointment, depending on the level of anxiety you experience, you may consider taking a number of steps in order to feel more ready for the appointment.
Some things to consider are:
Make a clear plan for traveling comfortably to the clinic. Check out the address and clinic website online. If you have a significant amount of stress around it, you may want to do a practice run.
If you are able, take the time to go to the clinic a few days before the appointment to make sure that you familiarize yourself with the area and know the best route for your arrival. This might help to decrease the level of stress that you may feel when traveling.
Don’t forget to give yourself lots of time to make it to the clinic without delaying the start of your appointment. Time pressure and uncertainty can read as activating and stressful to the nervous system.
By having more than enough time and knowing the exact location of your destination you can help to eliminate stress and anxiety.
Ask the reception staff upon making an appointment if you could have a tour of the clinic the week prior to your appointment. Hygienists and other staff will be happy to show you their space and help you to feel comfortable with the environment.
After the first appointment, if you believe that the oral health practitioner is not a good fit for you, please ask the reception staff if they could book your next appointment with a different practitioner.
By familiarizing yourself with the clinic ahead of time, it will help reduce the amount of stress experienced.
On the day of the appointment.
Give yourself plenty of time to travel to the clinic.
If it would be helpful for you, bring someone who is aware of the anxiety you’re experiencing and is a helpful support to you. Ensure the person knows ahead of time what you may need from them.
Some of the support they could provide are:
Moral support and wait for you in the waiting room
When you get in the exam room
When you get in the exam room, it might be easier for you to ask questions to the oral health practitioner while standing up.
If it is the case, just tell them that you would like to have that conversation before sitting in the chair. However, if the room is too small for you to stand comfortably, you can sit in the dental chair with your feet still on the floor. Keeping your feet on the ground might help your cup to not overflow, making it easier to communicate with the oral health practitioner.
Take the time to let them know your concerns.
Let them know that you might need multiple breaks through the appointment.
Ask them if they have any suggestions. For example, lifting your left hand means stop.
Ask for as many breaks as you need.
If it’s been a while since you have seen an oral health practitioner, you may require more than one appointment to complete a cleaning for example.
The oral health practitioner will be able to let you know upon examination if it is in your best interest to book multiple appointments to finish the treatment. The oral health practitioner wants you to feel comfortable. And during the procedure, you can ask for as many breaks as you need. They want you to have the best possible experience and support you through the discomfort. For example, if you are feeling any level of discomfort during the cleaning, let the oral health practitioner know. They are expert in pain management. They will be able to recommend an option that is suitable for you.
Some people have required medications to help them get through their dental appointments. If you have needed anxiety medications in the past or are curious about this option, you can request to have that discussion with your dental office to see if this may be a good possibility.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This will help you make better informed decisions and increase the overall quality of your dental care.
If you have an object that helps you manage anxiety, a gemstone for example, bring it with you. You can choose to wear ear buds and listen to music if it supports you to settle. Make sure you try different tools and, or activities before the appointment and find what will most likely be helpful for you.
Is the anxiety difficult to manage?
If you find that the anxiety is really difficult for you to manage you may benefit from working with a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) to learn strategies to better manage the anxiety.
An RCC can help you prepare for your dental appointment.
A Registered Clinical Counsellor can help you process a prior dental trauma or other types of trauma. Processing traumatic experiences can help create more space in your cup / nervous system, making it easier to feel more settled when you go to the dental clinic.
They can help you process a prior dental trauma or other types of trauma. Processing traumatic experiences can help create more space in your cup / nervous system, making it easier to feel more settled when you go to the dental clinic.
If you believe you would benefit from counselling support, go to the BCACC website and use the Find A Counsellor tool. Narrow your search down by looking for a RCC who specializes in trauma. Look for a specialization in medical / dental trauma on their profile. Contact the RCCs you feel could be a good fit and ask them if they work specifically with dental trauma.
Click for some tools to settle you into the space.
Do you have questions or feedback?
We request input from the public and practitioners about how this site can be improved.
This website is a collaborative project that is currently in BETA and will evolve over time. We request input from the public and practitioners about how this site can be improved. If you have feedback, suggestions, or extra tools that you think would be of value, please take a moment to send us a note. Your opinion and experience matters, and will help us shape this into a valuable resource for both practitioners and the public.