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Advice for Anxious Patients

Feeling anxious about going to the dentist is normal!!

This seems a funny statement to make on a page trying and reduce anxiety. But it is true, and a truth that most extremely anxious patients may find incomprehensible. In reality almost every patient we see is anxious to a degree, but this can vary from slight feelings of discomfort to panic attacks. There are two important differences between the patients that we see every day and treat successfully and the ones who feel too anxious to attend:

  1. The level of anxiety felt by the patient – more info
  2. (most importantly) The coping strategies employed by the patient – more info

That’s right! It is not that the patients we see are not anxious, it is just that they have found ways to deal with their anxiety. We will come back to the above points in detail below. Click on the links to jump ahead. First, however, we need to touch briefly on a separate entity that is often confused with anxiety:


Phobias and anxiety are different. Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness. A tension that is in fact a normal body defence mechanism to a stressful situation. It is the preparation of the body for what is called the ‘fight or flight’ response, i.e. if the situation gets worse, you are ready to defend yourself or leg-it!

Phobias are an irrational fear, although they will be a cause of anxiety, it is theirrationality that sets it apart. It makes them difficult to justify, or sometimes even vocalise, and they are more difficult to cope with.

As an example, lots of people are afraid of flying, which is a phobia because it is irrational. There is no need to be scared of flying as it is much safer than most other forms of travel, but being scared of crashing… that is a rational fear!

Phobias can be considered like a short circuit in the brain. They are a connection between a stimulus, often harmless, like sitting in a plane, and a panic reaction. They self-feed and progress so that without any added negative input, each time the degree of panic will increase.

Phobias can be dealt with in different ways to over come the fear. The most common, and often the easiest way to try and do this is with hypnotherapy, although other techniques are used. Theresa Parnell, a qualified hypnotherapist, cognative behavioural therapist and thrive councillor, works from BPDS, please visit her site for more details of the treatments she offers

Degrees of anxiety

As stated above, nearly all patients are anxious when it comes to seeing the dentist. Even a person who says they do not mind will probably feel a small amount of anxiety when they actually walk in, but dismiss it out of hand.

In the middle ground we have patients who are quite put out by their visit, but they manage. They perhaps have a sleepless night, or skip lunch because they don’t feel hungry. However when the time comes, they get in the car, drive to the surgery, and they go through their appointment and are relieved when it is over. These are the patients who have coping strategies to deal with their visit, although they may not realise it. The very fact that they can come in is fantastic. There may be better ways for them to deal with their anxiety, but they are most of the way there already.

The final group of people are the ones who cannot face the dentist. Either they don’t book an appointment, in denial, or they book and then never make it into the surgery for one reason or another. Something can always crop up if needed. Surely all the people who are in this group know what I mean! These are the people who need to, AND CAN, develop coping strategies.

To add to the problems, most patients who have any significant degree of anxiety, are acutely embarrassed by this fact, confounded by the lack of rational explanation for their degree for anxiety. As already stated, the anxiety felt is normal, and dentist are used to dealing with it on a daily basis, and expect patients to be anxious and embarrassed. The realisation that these feelings are normal, and an understanding or how many thousands of people share these feelings, should help you to accept that being anxious is nothing to be embarrassed about!

There are three further points that you need to take away from this section:

  1. This is not a fixed scale. There will be a full spectrum of individuals between the three groups mentioned.
  2. Your level is not fixed. It is perfectly normal for your anxiety levels to fluctuate, depending on the treatment you are receiving, how tired you are, how your day has gone, or any number of other factors.
  3. Most importantly. The difference between the people who attend, and the people that can’t is NOT the level of anxiety. There will be people who attend regularly who are more anxious then some who have never been. The difference is the coping strategies that are employed. We frequently see patients who we would assess as being exceedingly anxious, but between us and them, we cope.

Coping Strategies

There are countless different methods used to deal with the stress levels. Some better than others. But no two people are the same, so what works for one may be totally useless for another. Below are some of the common ones that we see. This is not an exhaustive list, just some known techniques.

Internal Techniques

The best methods are those that you, the individual, have control over.

External techniques

These are techniques that can be used by a dentist or other professional to help an anxious patient accept treatment. Ideally it is best to find ways of helping a person cope with their anxieties and the ultimate goal of good treatment provided with sedation or hypnosis is to aid a person to accept routine treatment in the future.


“Invisalign – Light. Crooked front teeth that had started to become more noticeable. This, in turn, started to affect my confidence.

The experience at Beaufort Park was excellent throughout. The staff, from the initial consultation, were friendly and professional. The welcoming reception staff through to the excellent dentist (Russell Gidney) have made this an (almost!) pleasurable experience!

I feel so much more confident and happy to smile again in public.

Quintin Bell

“I hated my smile in photos, I looked as though I only had about 4 teeth! 🙁

Treatments have all been explained, the team have been great & I have started to notice my teeth changing & looking good – despite not even being half way through my treatment (Invisalign Aligner 11/23). I am so happy with the progress.

Thank you! 🙂

Super, I would recommend to anyone considering treatment.

Rachel C

“After years of being unhappy with my crooked teeth and avoiding photographers if at all possible.

I decided to seek corrective treatment at the grand old age of 55 in order to be able to smile at my daughters up coming wedding. After a chat with the Beaufort Dental practice I decided on a course of CFast treatment. In a few short months I was thrilled with the result. Straight teeth which were so much easier to care for and which looked 100 per cent more attractive

The cost was manageable too and I paid at intervals during the treatment. I wish I’d done it years ago.


“I did not like my teeth so didn’t smile.

Invisalign – absolutely brilliant! Very professional team, extremely happy with the results!”

Lisa G

“Even though my oral hygiene has always been excellent I have for many years hated my teeth which were discoloured + the crowns rather mismatched.

Dr Russell Gidney was the first dentist I had confidence in to correct my problems. He showed great empathy, kindness + professional skill. He made me feel completely at ease.

His dental nurses + admin staff are all lovely. The outcome is better than I expected, I now have a lovely smile!”

Pamela C

“I recently had cosmetic work on my teeth carried out by Russell at the surgery. he explained everything in detail and I am overjoyed with the results. The difference it has made is amazing and I thoroughly recommend them. The staff are very helpful too!”

Gaynor M

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