Self Reliance – Dental Anxiety, Fears and Phobias

During the span of my professional dental career, (36+ years), one of my most important missions/goals has been to make the dental visit a positive and safe experience for the client/patient.

By providing an understanding and nurturing office environment, utilizing pain free treatment techniques, natural aides for anxiety (e.g. Valerian Root, Bach Flower Rescue Remedy, Homeopathic Calming Remedies) and truly listening to those I served, I am able to help them overcome their fears, anxieties and phobias. Make certain that the dentist you select to help you towards wellness, utilizes a similar approach. (Later in the article you will learn powerful self-help tools that you can use to help yourself become active partners in overcoming these problems, that keep more than half of the American population from seeking regular dental care.)

This mission/goal took on such great importance because of my own traumatic dental experience when I was 12 years old:

I had been cavity free during my childhood years, but as often happens in adolescence, I developed my first dental decay (cavity). The dentist was so angry, (I had been his pride and joy, “look, no cavities”) that he drilled on my first permanent molar with no local anesthetic (those were the days of the low speed dental drill). The pain was so intense, and I felt the dentistâs anger as he unrelentingly drilled. Tears streamed down my face, as the trust I had built over my childhood years was destroyed. There was no warning, no preparation, nor was there any excuse for the abuse I suffered at the hands of the angry dentist. When I went into dentistry, I vowed not to cause this kind of harm to my clients/patients. Later, in retrospect, I was grateful for this painful experience. It enabled me to help others with similar problems. However, my experience was nonetheless emotionally painful and traumatic and colored a good portion of my life.

It wasn’t until I became associated with an extraordinary psychotherapist (the co-author of this article) that I began to fully understand what happened to me at the age of 12. The psychotherapist, Eugenie G. Foret, shared with me her more than 25 years of professional experience and expertise in this area. She was able to help me solve my problems and allowed me to better help those that suffered from anxiety, fear and phobias in relation to their dental experience through utilization of her principles and techniques.

We are happy to share these principles and techniques with you, in the hope that it leads to positive and nurturing dental experiences essential to wellness and health.

If you would like to receive more information about our upcoming series of audio tapes and instructional guide book on transforming dental anxiety, fears and phobias, a self-reliance series, let us know by leaving us a message on our toll free voice mail (888-758-8058).

These principles can increase your self reliance and assist you in creating a more positive dental experience. We believe that through accessing your inner tools you can begin the process of becoming increasingly more self reliant and at the same time learn how to maximize the potential of these precious tools to increase your wellness and prevent disease. Remember that the goal is to create a new experience in which you are in control. As you approach problem solving, it is important to allow the process, because many times the answers that we need and seek are in the process – in the journey, rather than in the goal or the end result.

Problem solving consists of three steps:

  • First Step: Awareness – To become aware that a problem exists. Acknowledge that it is present in your life.
  • Second Step: Acceptance – The second step is to begin the process of acceptance. I accept that this is happening in my life and what do I want to do with it.It is in this phase that most of the discovering takes place and with it increased options and choices.
  • Third Step: Action – This is the third step and involves putting the results of work, change and discoveries into behaviors.

Inner Tools

Your armamentarium is inside you your thoughts, feelings, images, behaviors and/or actions. There is not any greater knowledge than that of knowing yourself.


For this phase of discovery, you need to allow the feeling of fear. Actually say to yourself repeatedly,

“Yes, I am afraid.” I feel fearful of (complete this sentence).”

Separate the Fear

It is important to realize the fear you are experiencing is a feeling and not you. You are more than the fear! Say to yourself: “It is okay for me to be afraid – to be fearful.”

Do Not Judge Yourself
This is an important step in the acceptance phase. Watch for certain thoughts like: “I am stupid.” “No one else is afraid.” “I am weak to feel afraid.” These are judgements of your feelings and will interfere with your ability to work towards acceptance of the fear.

How you perceive your life experiences is a key factor in determining how these experiences will affect you. Once you become aware of your own perceptions of the fear you can choose to see it differently which will create choice for you.

Breathing is an important tool in accessing feelings, experiencing the fullness of feelings, and decreasing and controlling anxiety and fears. Breath is also important in maintaining wellness and the prevention of disease. When we are anxious and/or fearful, breath is restricted and becomes more shallow and rapid.

Relaxation is another key to decreasing and controlling anxiety and fear and is closely connected to breath. It creates an internal space inside of you that increases control over your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors giving freedom to inform choices, changes in perception, increased healing and a feeling of well being.

Anxiety/Fear/Phobia Cycle
All of the above principles will assist you in gaining more control over your fear and/or trauma, acknowledging the feeling, creating a new positive experience, reframing, and learning how to relax.

If at any time during the process of walking through the steps you feel the cycle is getting complicated and are more anxious, let this be a guide for you to seek additional assistance with a qualified professional. These suggestions and information are not a substitute for professional guidance.

This is a summary principle. It is through accepting responsibility that allows all of the above principles to work together. You do not have the “ability to respond” to your anxiety and fear with internal wisdom that is gained through increased awareness of you, resulting in control over your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. This empowered-you then gains control over the “reactive cycle” of the fear and anxiety allowing you more informed choices with the ability to respond to the fear and anxiety rather than you reacting to it.

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Written by Jacob Trager DDS

Explore Wellness in 2021