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Emotional Freedom Technique (Tapping): How To Use It To Alleviate Anxiety In The Dental Patient

Written by Cindy Rogers, RDH


How many times have you heard a patient say: “I hate the dentist.”? Well, they don’t actually mean they hate the dentist. More than likely they have dental anxiety. It has been estimated that 9% to 15% of Americans avoid seeing the dentist because of anxiety and fear.

Fear of the drill, fear of the needle, fear of the cost, fear of the white coat, fear of small spaces, fear of being lectured, fear of bad past experiences, and fear of being embarrassed.  These are all fears that can bring on anxiety about going to see a dentist.

There are many options we can offer our patients to help them conquer their anxiety. Some options are: listening to headphones, taking anti-anxiety medication, breathing exercises, etc. One option you may not have heard about is Emotional Freedom Technique, commonly referred to as tappin

What is Emotional Freedom Technique (Tapping)?

Emotional Freedom Technique, often referred to as tapping, is a form of psychological acupressure that is meant to help your body focus on healing its self.  It has been shown to help relieve a wide range of emotional and physical issues such as anxiety, stress, depression, pain and trauma. It can be done anywhere and anytime without any tools, needles or side effects, which makes it very convenient.

Think of it as a form of acupuncture where you use your fingers instead of needles. Using your fingertips to tap on your energy meridians using a sequence which helps release blockages within your energy system.

The Three Parts to Tapping

Part One: The Setup Statement- Have the patient focus on their feelings of anxiety. They should come up with a statement that addresses that anxiety. The more specific they are with the statement, the better. An example is: “Even though I have dental anxiety, I love and accept myself.”

Part Two: The Reminder phase – The reminder phrase should be a very short version of your setup statement that states the issue. An example is: “This dental anxiety”The reminder phrase will be used as they continue through the tapping sequence.

Part Three: The Sequence- Start by having your patient rate their anxiety on a scale of 1-10. Then have them start the sequence by repeating the setup statement three times aloud, while tapping on their first meridian point, the karate chop. Next, have them tap 7-9 times on the reminding eight points in order listed below. As they are tapping on the eight remaining points, have them repeat the reminder phase.

The Nine Meridian Points Used for Tapping


1.    Karate Chop – Located on the fleshy, outside part of the hand between the top of the wrist and the bottom of the pinkie finger

2.    Eyebrow – Located just above the nose where the eyebrow starts, slightly to the side.

3.    Corner of the Eye – Located on the bone alongside the corner of the eye.

4.    Under the Eye – Located an inch under the pupil.

5.    Below the Nose – Located in the area between your nose and upper lip.

6.    Under the Mouth – Located below your bottom lip and above your chin.

7.    Collar Bone – Located where your collarbone and first rib meet.  To find it, locate the U-shaped indentation at the top at the bottom of your throat (then move down 1 inch and to the side 1 inch.

8.    Under the Arm – Located about 4 inches below the armpit.

9.    Top of the Head- Located on the top of your skull in the middle of your head.  

After they have completed the tapping sequence, have them take a deep breath and concentrate on how they are feeling. Now have them rate their anxiety again on a scale of 1-10. They should feel a sense of relief, but they may want to repeat the sequence for even better results.

Once your patient has perfected this sequence, they can perform this any time during their dental appointment to help ease their anxiety.  

We now have several resources to offer our patients when it comes to dental anxiety. Tapping might be the best option as it is proven to be highly effective and does not require any equipment or medication. The patient is totally in control of the tapping and this helps ease their fear and anxiety even more.