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Nearly 1 in 25 of us has dental-phobia. But have you heard about the latest way to calm those fears? One of these methods could give you just the dose of courage you need.

“A good, trusted dentist who puts you at ease will never go out of fashion,” says Alexandre DaSilva, DDS, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan Dental School. “But technology can also help you relax, decrease anxiety, and decrease pain.”

Pain-free injections. If you fear needles, an anesthetic gel, spray, or rinse can numb the area before you get a shot. (These anesthetics can also relieve a generally oversensitive mouth.) Studies show that it is the speed of injections, not the needle, that can cause discomfort.

Spa-like experience. Some dentists try to take you to another place. Many practices offer headphones and tv so you can sit back, relax, and watch movies, or listen to music while the dentist works.

Total relaxation. Many dentists offer nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas.” You inhale the gas through your nose during the entire procedure. You’re back to normal shortly afterward and can drive yourself home.

For something stronger, dentists might prescribe a sedative medicine that you take the night before your appointment, then again an hour or so beforehand.

“Patients sleep well the night before and come into the appointment in a more relaxed state,” says Bob Range, DDS, an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry.

Dentists can also offer IV sedation. You’re awake during the procedure, but you’re extremely relaxed. Your eyes may close, and you might not remember much, but you can respond to your dentist’s questions and requests.

More Control in Your Hands

Some dentists let you hold a button that can stop whatever machine the dentist is using. If your dentist doesn’t offer this, they will often let you know that you can gently raise your hand if you need them to stop. Most Dentists will stop frequently and check in with you as well.



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Kudo, M. Anesthesia Progress, Fall 2005.

Shah, M. Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology, April-June 2012. “The Dental Button,” “Inhalation Sedation (Laughing Gas).”

Lehrner, J.,Physiology & Behavior, Sept. 15, 2005.

Atsumi, T. Psychiatry Research, Feb. 28, 2007.

Toda, M., Archives of Oral Biology, October 2008.

Kritsidima, M., Community of Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, February 2010.

Alexandre DaSilva, DDS, assistant professor, University of Michigan Dental School.

Bob Range, DDS, assistant clinical professor, University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry.

Ashley A. Goodman, DDS, dentist, San Diego.