Navigating The Waters Of Dental Phobia

Posted by Buxykay on July 30th, 2019

 dental phobia

Studies have found that between 9 percent and 20 percent of Americans avoid visiting the dentist due to dental fear or dental anxiety. However, this is not just an American thing; it is actually a global phenomenon.

The consequences of this problem could go way beyond lost teeth or dental pain. It could result in gum disease, which is a serious condition that could impact other parts of the body. Research now links gum disease to illnesses including like diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

Dental Phobia

In comparison to dental anxiety, dentophobia or dental phobia is much more serious. The latter leaves individuals terrified and panic-stricken. Individuals who are afflicted with this condition are aware that the fear is completely irrational; however, there is not much they can do about it without professional help.

Afflicted individuals display classic avoidance behavior; this means they will do everything in their power to avoid a trip to the dentist. Individuals with dental phobia typically visit the dentist only when extreme pain forces them to do so. In some cases, pathologic dental anxiety or phobia could require psychiatric consultation.

Is Fear Of The Dentist Age Related?

Dental phobia is actually common among individuals of all ages. For some individuals, it is related to iatrophobia, which is a fear of doctors.

Reasons For Having Dental Phobia

There are a number of reasons individuals have dental anxiety and phobia. Included among the common ones are:

Fear Of Pain

This is an extremely common reason individuals avoid the dentist. Typically, this fear is rooted in an early dental experience that was painful or unpleasant. It could also stem from stories they heard about the pain and horror associated with dental visits. However, there are a number of advances that have happened in dentistry over the years and as such, most dental procedures are significantly less painful and some are even pain-free.

Being Terrified Of Injections Or Fearing The Injection Will Not Work

A number of individuals are terrified of needles, particularly when they have to go into their mouths. There is also the fear that the anesthesia will not take effect or the dose will be inadequate to stop the pain prior to the start of the dental procedure.

Fear Of Side Effects From The Anesthetic

Many individuals fear the likelihood of feeling faint, becoming dizzy, feeling nauseated or experiencing any of the other possible side effects of anesthesia. Others do not like the "fat lip" or numbness usually associated with the use of local anesthetics.

Feelings Helpless and Not in Control

Considering the situation, it is common for individuals to feel these emotions. In a dental office, patients are typically required to sit in a chair with wide open mouths and they have no way of seeing what is really going on.

Loss of Personal Space and Embarrassment

There are many individuals who experience feelings if discomfort even thinking about how close the dentist or hygienist will be to their face. There are others who may feel self-conscious about possible mouth odors and how their teeth might appear to these dental professionals.

Bad Effects

The negative effects of dental phobia include:

  • Feelings of nervousness that intensify while in the waiting room of the dental office

  • Extreme sleeplessness the night before the dental visit

  • Intense uneasiness even thinking about objects being placed in the mouth during the dental treatment or having difficulty breathing all of a sudden

  • Feeling physically ill or crying at the mere thought of going to the dentist

What Dentists Say About It

Dentists are aware of the anxiety that a large number of individuals experience at the mere thought of visiting their offices. While some dentists lack the patience to treat terrified patients with the attention they deserve, the majority is prepared to do whatever it takes to create an environment that fosters comfort and minimizes the feeling of terror. There are dentists who make a point of talking with patients in their offices, instead of in the dental chair, to minimize the time that a patient has to spend in the chair.

An oral surgeon who specializes in wisdom teeth removal in Houston TX claimed that people do exhibit these fears only for specific situations. For instance, according to him, very few or almost none of his patients display fear during teeth cleaning or flossing. As soon as there is the slightest possibility of a dental extraction of any sort, that is when the fear becomes very evident in these people.

How To Handle Fear Of Dentists?


The key to coping with dental phobia or dental anxiety is to have a discussion with your dentist about your fears. When the dentist is aware of your anxiety, he or she will be better equipped to work with you to figure out the best methods of making you more comfortable and less anxious. If he or she does not take your phobia seriously, you should consider finding another dentist.

If lack of control is among your main stressors, your tension can be eased by actively sharing in a discussion with your dentist regarding your treatment. Ask him or her to explain what is taking place at every step in the process. By doing this, you can prepare yourself mentally for what is about to happen.

Establishing a signal is another helpful strategy to cope with your dental appointments. This could include signals like as raising your hand whenever you need the dentist to stop right away. Whatever signals you come up with, you can use them whenever you need to rinse your mouth, if you are uncomfortable or you just need to catch your breath.


You can start by creating a non-threatening environment. This means transforming the space into is a barely recognizable dentist's office. If there is a beautiful view, emphasize that and use it as a means of relaxation for your patients or you could add a water feature that would serve to soothe the nerves of your patients.

Additionally, you could consider adding soothing photography and other elements to the waiting room and remove posters that could be interpreted as depicting the horrors of dentistry. A number of individuals have a fight-or-flight response to the sights, smells and sounds of a dentist's office. Taking away as much of the negative cues as possible from the space will have a calming effect and will make for a much more pleasant experience, especially for individuals with dental phobia.

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