The Most Anxiety-Inducing Dental Procedures

Dental anxiety is very common, and it can have the negative consequence of causing people to avoid getting needed dental care, which leads to poorer oral health. To understand how best to help patients overcome dental anxiety, it’s important to understand which procedures cause patients the most anxiety. We looked at two relatively recent studies on self-reported anxiety among dental patients to determine what procedures cause the most anxiety. Although some of the procedures that cause high levels of anxiety seem intuitive, there are some surprising sources of dental anxiety among patients. This reminds us that a relaxation dentistry tool like NuCalm should be on hand for potentially every procedure, and dentists should never presume that it’s unnecessary.

The Most Anxiety-Inducing Dental Procedures

Injection with Needle

Of course injection with a needle is going to be high on people’s list of dental fears. In this study of dental students, it was listed as the number one source of dental fear, inspiring fear from about 28% of subjects. Trypanophobia–the fear of needles–is a common source of anxiety associated with all medical procedures from a relatively young age.

Root Canal Treatment

Another expected source of fear is root canal therapy. This procedure is legendary for the level of discomfort it supposedly causes. Despite the fact that modern root canal therapy is actually more pain-relieving than pain-inducing, fear of the procedure persists.


Extraction has multiple reasons for being fear-inducing. Partly, it’s a potentially traumatic procedure that could result in significant discomfort. As with root canal therapy, this procedure has actually become much less traumatic in recent years, and the pain levels are much lower than expected for most people.

However, tooth extraction is literally the stuff of nightmares. The fear of having one’s teeth fall out is one of the most commonly reported nightmares across cultures. A tooth extraction is this nightmare made real.

Application of Cold Air

This is a procedure that most of us don’t think about normally, but it was one that caused many dental students anxiety. The reason why they are afraid of this procedure is that it is literally designed to induce pain. It’s a test to see whether your teeth are sensitive, and it generally finds out that they are. Quite unpleasant.

Routine Checkup

One of the most surprising findings of a study of Indian youths was that the most fear-inducing procedures in dentistry was the routine checkup. Although a relatively small number of people (4.16%), those that did fear it reported the highest level of anxiety compared to any other procedure (78% anxious–for comparison, root canal therapy scored an anxiety level of only 66%). Thus, a procedure doesn’t have to be painful to induce anxiety. But perhaps the dental student survey shows us why this procedure induces so much anxiety.

More Treatment Recommended

One of the most anxiety-inducing procedures reported among dental students is being told that they need more treatment. This might explain why people fear checkups: there’s always a risk that you’re going to be told you need more treatment. And that potential for another treatment hovers out there as a horrible possibility. In some people’s minds, the only thing worse than a visit to the dentist is two visits to the dentist!

NuCalm Helps with All Anxiety

Given the variability of these responses, it’s hard to predict what procedures are going to cause your patients anxiety. That’s why a good dentist has NuCalm on hand for any procedure.

If you’re a dental patient who is looking for relaxing dental experience, please contact a local NuCalm dentist.