How To Manage Dental Anxiety in Elderly Patients

It is not uncommon for someone to have a fear related to seeing a dentist. However, left unchecked those phobias can develop to the point where a dental office is a place to avoid at all costs. When the fear involves an elderly patient, it can have a strong impact on their oral health.

By not seeing a dentist, regular check-ups are missed which could have otherwise identified a potential dental problem early enough to begin preventative care. This is why it is important to discuss these fears with your dentist or the front office staff at your dental office.

Understanding The Source of Anxiety

If you are afraid to visit your dentist, rest assured that you are not the first person to experience this. Even if you cannot pinpoint precisely where the fear started, the dental office you visit will be able to help you. Your anxiety may be from an early childhood experience.

The negative event may not otherwise be a factor in your daily activities. However, triggers may set it off. These triggers can range from the sound of dental drills, the smell of fluoride, the fact that someone has their fingers in your mouth or some other factor.

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Share Your Concern The Moment You Make Your Appointment

The first step to dealing with dental fears in elderly patients starts at the reception desk. If you are making your appointment in person, over the phone, or online be sure to indicate that you have anxiety about the visit. The receptionist will completely understand your concern.

By revealing your fear early in the process you give the dental office time to help you through the appointment. They have several ways in which they can help keep you calm and can review them with you prior to your appointment. Here are some suggestions:

1.  Early Appointment Time

Sometimes the longer you have to wait during the day to see the dentist, the more time you have to worry about it. By booking an appointment first thing in the morning, you have less time to think about the visit.

2.  Bring A Friend or Family Member

Dentists are used to having patients who have a friend or family member with them during the dental visit. If this is one way that can help you to relax, ask if you can take someone you know with you. Just having an acquaintance present can be a source of comfort. A family member or a friend may also be able to provide accountability and help the dental patient overcome their anxiety. The dental patient can also work with their chosen friend or family member on overcoming their anxiety through counseling and may serve as a valuable contributor to allow for the dental treatment to occur.

3.  The Get-To-Know-You Appointment

If you are extremely concerned about this dental appointment, and chances are it will be your first one in several months or even years, don’t worry. The dentist can turn your first visit into a non-examination meeting where you will be able to sit and visit.

The idea of the conversational visit is to get to know you and what your concerns are. Without a procedure scheduled, the dentist can give you a tour of the facility and show you equipment while answering your questions. This often helps relax elderly patients in follow-up visits.

Other Ways To Relax Anxious Patients

On the day of your appointment, your dentist will be glad to answer any and all of your questions. There are painless treatments available which may be an option to explore. They include dental wands and numbing gels which can help to alleviate the anxiety associated with needles and injections.

Also, you can arrange for a signal that you can use to alert the dentist that you require a short break during a procedure. Your dentist wants you to have a good experience in their office and will do whatever you require to help you through your fear.


In reality, no-one really likes going to the dentist, but having anxiety or a fear that stops you from going to the dentist will only result in dental health issues down the road. Dentists are trained to understand the fears that many people have, and will aim to make your visit to the dentist as comfortable as possible.

So make sure that you discuss your concerns with your dentist before your next visit, and don’t put it off any longer.

The above photo is form Pixabay.

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