Dental anxiety is a widespread problem. In fact, one study estimated that 36% of the population suffers from dental fear or anxiety. Up to 12% of those individuals suffer from fear so severe it could be classified as a phobia. That kind of anxiety can cause patients to avoid treatment, resulting in serious dental problems that are even more difficult to resolve, feeding into their fear even further. Luckily, there are some fantastic modern ways to reduce dental anxiety for patients and break that cycle.

There are modern ways to reduce dental anxiety for patients, which encourages them to receive dental treatment.
There are modern ways to reduce dental anxiety for patients.

Why do Patients Fear the Dentist? Dental Anxiety Triggers

Dental fear and anxiety are often referred to interchangeably. However, they are two different things. Dental anxiety is a generalized reaction to overall dentistry. Fear is specific and related to a particular area of treatment. Someone with a fear of needles will have a dental fear; someone with anxiety fears treatment, period.

When addressing these issues, you can trace them back to one of two factors.




These are fears that come from external factors. The patient has had an unpleasant experience or has heard rumors of someone else's.

The patient may have a pre-existing anxiety condition, making them more prone to panic.


While research has been done into dental phobias, it really breaks down to those two factors. Complicating matters is the possible combination of the two. Someone with an anxiety disorder, who hears a story about how someone got an infection after a root canal, will be far more likely to internalize that fear. That may make them avoid proper treatment when they need it, even though the likelihood of them suffering that same condition is low. To address this, dental practices can look at different methods to control dental anxiety.

Traditional Ways to Reduce Dental Anxiety for Patients

Many methods for controlling dental anxiety for patients have been around since Hesyre, the first recognized dentist, hung his shingle in 2650 B.C. The methods include patient education, distraction, and support.





The dental team clearly explains the procedure the patient undergoes and why. They may demonstrate the process on models or show them pamphlets and pictures so they can make an informed decision.

Distraction can be helpful for patients with specific dental fears, like needles or the sound of drilling. Background music is often used to create a relaxing atmosphere during treatment.

Offering continuous verbal support, encouragement, and praise can help make the patient more comfortable with the treatment. This is especially true for younger patients, where there may be barriers in the education step.


Dentists have used these three strategies throughout history to calm dental anxiety. However, with today's technology, there are ways to improve those methods and reduce dental patient anxiety even more!

Educating patients on dental procedures can reduce dental anxiety.
Educating patients on dental procedures can reduce dental anxiety.

Updating Your Strategies to Put Patients at Ease

Addressing dental anxiety is an ongoing challenge. It will never go away completely. However, embracing innovative, tech-driven methods can enhance patient comfort.

Here are a few different options on how to do this:

Use chairside videos for patient education.

Envisioning a procedure on a model can be hard or even unsettling. A better way is to use educational videos at the patient's knowledge level. These offer step-by-step visuals and detailed explanations to help alleviate anxiety and build trust between the patient and the dental professional.

Their usefulness doesn't end at chairside consultations, either. Repetition is a critical method for helping patients retain the information they hear. Educational videos can be shared with them via email or text, so they can revisit the information at their convenience. This provides a valuable resource for patients to educate themselves further and make informed decisions about their dental treatment.

Incorporating chairside educational videos also removes the burden from dental staff as they are a versatile and effective means of communication. This primes the patient for treatment in a positive way that requires no extra time from your team.

Create a relaxing virtual reality experience.

Virtual reality (VR) can be an incredibly effective method of distracting patients from treatment. VR headsets transport them to a different setting or engage them in interactive games. Multiple studies have shown that VR can even reduce patients' pain and distress perception. Of course, it is not always practical, especially when dealing with bulky headsets.

But there are a few cases where VR can be invaluable:

  • Addiction risk management: Patients with addiction histories may hesitate to take strong pain medication beyond local anesthetic. VR can be used to minimize pain during treatment for minimally invasive procedures.
  • Pediatric dentistry: Children are a particular challenge because education doesn't always work. A better option is distraction. Your pediatric patient can be transported to virtual worlds where they can interact with friendly characters, play games, or explore imaginative settings. This helps to reduce anxiety, increase cooperation, and create a more enjoyable dental experience for young patients.
  • Long treatment: Procedures requiring extended periods in the dental chair can mentally and physically challenge patients. VR headsets can offer an immersive escape, helping them pass the time more comfortably.
  • Special needs patients: Individuals with special needs, such as developmental disorders or sensory issues, may face significant challenges during dental visits. VR headsets can be particularly useful in these cases, offering a controlled and immersive environment to help manage sensory overload.

It is important to note that VR headsets should be tailored to each patient's specific needs. Consider patient preferences and offer assorted options to ensure a pleasant VR experience in dental care.

Offer convenient telehealth services and remote monitoring.

What better way to eliminate dental patient anxiety than to eliminate the visit? While this isn't possible for every treatment, telehealth services can be used for remote consultations with dental professionals, offering patients a convenient and comfortable option for seeking guidance or advice without physically visiting the dental practice. Through video calls or messaging platforms, dentists can address patient concerns, offer reassurance, and provide guidance on oral health practices. This personalized and remote care approach helps alleviate anxiety by ensuring that patients receive the support they need from their homes.

Remote monitoring can also be used to minimize follow-up visits. Wearable devices or smart sensors allow patients to track their oral health at home. These devices monitor several factors, including brushing habits, plaque levels, and gum health. By empowering patients to participate in their oral care actively, these devices promote engagement and instill confidence. Dentists can remotely monitor patients' progress and provide personalized feedback based on the data collected. This proactive approach helps identify potential dental issues early on and reassures patients that their oral health is being monitored and supported.

There are dozens of updated ways to reduce dental anxiety for patients that you can use to make your practice a friendlier place. Adopting a few of these options can educate, distract, and support those who would otherwise delay treatment. With patient education videos, VR tools, and telehealth options, you make care more accessible, approachable, and anxiety-free.