Social Anxiety Disorder: How To Handle Root Canal Treatment

If you have social anxiety disorder, many aspects of life are challenging. You may fear being the center of attention and interacting with other people. You may also suffer anticipatory anxiety, which means that you become anxious about a situation far in advance. Root canal therapy involves both being the center of attention and interacting with your dentist and the other technicians. Further, anticipatory anxiety may have you suffering long before you ever walk in the office for your appointment. However, if you need a root canal, it is imperative you have it done to avoid further physical pain as well as the possible loss of the tooth. How can you handle this dental visit without being snowballed with anxiety symptoms?

1. Get informed

The first thing you need is information, because knowing what to expect helps alleviate anxiety. Ask your dentist about what to expect during your appointment, and read articles from respected sources online. Don't read the "everything went wrong" stories!

2. Communicate

Tell your dentist that you have social anxiety disorder, and be honest about what elements of the procedure might spark a panic attack. Doing this alerts him/her to your vulnerability on that day so that accommodations may be made for your comfort. It also prompts your dentist to check in with you frequently during your root canal to see how well you're tolerating it.

3. Consult

It might help to schedule a consultation with your doctor for medication that could help you tolerate your appointment. If you routinely take anti-anxiety medication, ask whether it will be appropriate for a situation such as this. Whether you get a new prescription or take a familiar medicine, check with the doctor to see if it is safe to mix with the anesthetic the dentist will give you. Tell your dentist about any medication you will taking so that he/she knows also.

4. Prepare for the worst

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a treatment approach that some National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) studies find to be highly successful in reducing social anxiety symptoms. Some tips from CBT for handling an anxiety-producing situation are

  • Identify what you're afraid will happen, and then determine the potential for that outcome

  • Identify the worst, best, and likely case scenarios

  • Identify what you would do if the worst-case scenario occurred

  • Identify the pros and cons of worrying about the situation

Spending some time objectively evaluating your anxieties about the root canal treatment appointment in light of these suggestions may help you gain a realistic perspective.

5. Enlist support

Ask a friend or family member to take you to your appointment--one who understands your anxiety disorder and what best helps you when you get upset. Having moral support and a trusted companion at your side will make the day easier.

6. Bring on the tunes

Consider bringing headphones and your favorite music to your appointment. Tuning out much of the noise from the dental tools and occupying your mind with music you enjoy will help keep your anxiety at bay.

7. Take a deep breath

When you arrive at your appointment, take a deep breath. Clear your mind. Remind yourself what you've learned about the procedure and the likelihood of its success. Reassure yourself that the procedure will be over soon, and you'll be on your way home.

For someone with social anxiety, the worst of an appointment such as this takes place beforehand. Anticipating what "could" happen and imagining pain and discomfort create a perfect storm of upset in your head. The fact is that 90-95% of root canal treatments are successful,, so chances are your root canal will go smoothly and you will recover quickly. For more information, check out sites like