dental anxiety

Being nervous about visiting the dentist is not uncommon, it is thought to affect a significant proportion of the adult population in the UK. In the late 1990s, a UK Adult Dental Health survey was conducted, and the results suggested that around one-quarter of adults ‘definitely’ felt anxious about visiting the dentist and a further quarter felt anxiety to ‘some extent’.

Although experiencing nerves in situations where we don’t feel fully in control is quite normal, for some of us we may actually be experiencing ‘dental anxiety’, which is a recognised condition.

How to spot dental anxiety

According to an article published in 2008 by dental experts Banerjee and Fiske, the signs of true dental anxiety can be grouped into three key categories: physiological, behavioural and cognitive.  Physiological means symptoms that you can actually feel, behavioural are outwardly visible symptoms and cognitive describes the way you feel.

This is what you might expect to feel/experience in each of these if you are suffering from the condition:

Physiological signs

  • Looking pale, or alternatively, looking flushed
  • Dry mouth
  • Fast breathing (possibly evening hyperventilating)
  • Tight feeling in stomach
  • Tension in muscles

Behavioural signs

  • Being angry/agitated and directing this at dental staff
  • Cancelling or being very late for appointments
  • Talking a lot on arrival (delaying the onset of the appointment)

Cognitive signs

  • Dreading the appointment
  • Feeling anxious, negative or generally apprehensive about what to expect
  • Focussing on the worse-case scenario when considering different outcomes from the appointment

Does this sound familiar? It doesn’t have to be prohibitive to ensure your teeth are well cared for, you just need to ensure that you find a dental practice that recognises the condition and can help make the experience of visiting the dentist as stress free and calming as possible.

Putting patients at ease

Here at CK Dental, we acknowledge that for patients suffering from dental anxiety – and those who are just not entirely confident about visiting the dentist – booking an appointment to have a routine check-up can be very daunting. Our staff are specially trained to help patients feel at ease, and we believe that this begins with nurturing a caring and calm environment, plus talking openly with patients who have got concerns about their dental care.

Missing appointments, making excuses and generally assuming that your teeth are ok are all risky patterns of behaviour that could lead to longer-term serious dental problems, so if this resonates with your experience then it might be time to try and overcome these concerns and have a think about some of the more positive things associated with overcoming these concerns and getting a clean bill of health for your teeth.



There are many different reasons why a patient might feel nervous about visiting the dentist, some of which could be rationally justified, others may be based on lack of information or incorrect assumptions about what to expect. Here at CK Dental, we look through some of the most common causes associated with the condition of dental anxiety

Being in a situation you cannot control

The act of reclining in the dentist’s chair may feel relaxing to some people and nerve-wracking for others. Some people find being asked to recline daunting, but rest assured this is purely to enable to best view inside your mouth at an angle that will cause the least discomfort for the patient.

The other issue for some is the worry that they are unable to communicate with the dentist while the appointment is underway, due to the fact they have their mouth open and dental implements are sometimes used to look and feel inside your mouth. A simple hand motion will be enough to alert your dentist that you wish to communicate with them, and if this is something that you are very worried about then tell your dentist before the appointment begins and they will be able to agree on a hand signal that they will keep an eye out for should you wish to talk to them.

Not knowing what to expect

The fear of the unknown often a factor anxiety and although this is a common symptom of dental anxiety, it is also pretty easy to find a solution for. Firstly, try not to overthink the potential outcomes of the appointment. Remember that all your dentist wants is to check that your teeth and gums are healthy, and then hopefully send you home reassured that you are looking after your teeth sufficiently.

If you need some work done to keep your mouth in tip-top condition, your dentist will explain clearly what they are recommending and what the process will involve. If you tell your dentist about your concerns they will be able to offer dialogue and reassurance throughout the process and work with you to ensure that you are feeling fully informed. Clear, concise information can really help mitigate feelings of anxiety and if your dentist knows this is important to you, they will no doubt love to talk about it in more detail and help you feel reassured.

Learned behaviour

One of the most common reasons that children are nervous about visiting the dentist is because they have witnessed their parents eliciting signs of nerves. From a very young age, children are like sponges, soaking up what they see and hear around them, and they are surprisingly perceptive.

If you are bringing children to the dentist and you are prone to suffering from dental anxiety, try and pretend that you are not phased by the experience. Putting on a brave face for the sake of the kids is a great coping device and will mean that they are less affected by your own fears. Not only that, if you successfully put on a brave face throughout an appointment, focusing your thoughts on your children rather than your fears, you might be pleasantly surprised that the whole experience isn’t nearly as daunting as you were expecting.

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Telephone: 0117 9059 866

CK Dental | Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital – The Chesterfield, 3 Clifton Hill, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1BN