Dental Phobia and Dental Anxiety: When Are People Afraid of the Dentist

A Colgate article on dental phobia and dental anxiety contends people with dental phobia and dental anxiety will go to amazing extremes to keep from visiting the dentist.

They say:

To avoid it, they'll put up with gum infections (periodontal disease), pain, or even broken and unsightly teeth. Dental anxiety and phobia are extremely common. It has been estimated that 9% to 15% of Americans avoid seeing the dentist because of anxiety and fear. ... People with dental phobia aren't merely anxious.

So what does it mean to have a dental phobia? What is dental anxiety?

Again, a dental phobia is not just a basic fear of the dentist. We’ll get to that below. First, we’ll cover dental anxiety.

Dental anxiety affects a surprisingly large number of individuals. The Colgate article states, “Dental anxiety and phobia are extremely common. It has been estimated that 9% to 15% of Americans avoid seeing the dentist because of anxiety and fear. That's about 30 million to 40 million people. In a survey by the British Dental Health Foundation, 36% of those who didn't see a dentist regularly said that fear was the main reason.”

Of course, many people don’t have going to the dentist on their list of favorite things to do. However, they don’t necessarily dread the dentist either – or they keep their regular visits and appointments anyway because the reward is healthy, strong, teeth.

On the other hand, for some, visiting the dentist and dental procedures can provoke significant anxiety. For this group, they will often fret over dental visits or dental procedures. They are afraid of the dentist - or rather, what they believe they will see, hear, and experience while at the dentist and getting dental work done.

Of course, most things you get done at the dentist don’t cause pain. Rather it’s often merely the idea of the dentist – and the sights and sounds mentioned above - that bother the majority who suffer from dental anxiety. Yet, those in this group usually still maintain regular dental appointments—they just do so reluctantly or with a bad taste in their mouth.

Contrastingly, persons who live with a dental phobia, frequently do whatever they can to avoid the dentist altogether.

The same Colgate article explains what a phobia is in simple-to-understand language. It states, “A phobia is an intense, unreasonable fear. People can fear a specific activity, object or situation. People with dental phobia often put off routine care for years or even decades. To avoid it, they'll put up with gum infections (periodontal disease), pain, or even broken and unsightly teeth.”

Consequently, their dental health is usually poor. Meaning, when they are forced to visit the dentist for a dental procedure that can no longer be ignored, it’s a much more extensive visit. This precipitates further fear and reinforcement of the dental phobia. It’s kind of a tail-wagging-the-dog phenomenon that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The good news is dental anxiety and dental phobia can be treated. Furthermore, many dental offices – such as ours here at Cigno Dental – offer sedation dentistry for those who have these problems. The advent of sedation dentistry has been a lifesaver for many. If you suffer from dental anxiety or worse, have a dental phobia, you may want to see if sedation dentistry might be a workable solution for you.

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