What is Dental Phobia?

Dental phobia, or fear of the dentist, is an irrational and often debilitating fear that can prevent you from visiting your dentist regularly. This is extremely detrimental to your dental health, as regular visits are essential for maintaining good oral hygiene.


There are a number of causes of dental anxiety, including past painful experiences, negative portrayals in the media, and traumatic childhood memories.

Fear of the Dentist

Even though dentists are generally the nicest people in the world, it only takes a single bad experience to trigger anxiety. This fear may have started as a result of a bad childhood experience or, in more serious cases, the witnessing of a loved one being tortured by a dental professional.

It is also possible that mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression increase the risk of dental phobia, and hearing about other patients’ horror stories can make matters worse. A combination of therapy, gradual exposure, and coping mechanisms are often the best way to treat dentophobia.

A good start is finding a dentist who understands your fears and will be sympathetic to your situation. Taking a friend along for an initial consultation can help reduce anxiety, as will bringing a stress-ball that can be squeezed in times of heightened fear or anxiety. There are also simple relaxation techniques that can be practiced before a visit to the dentist, such as controlled breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. Taking medication is another option to ease the fear, but it is essential to discuss this with your dentist before agreeing to anything.

Fear of the Procedure

Many people fear the actual dental procedure itself. This can be due to a combination of factors. For example, some people have a strong fear of blood (hemophobia) and worry about the small amounts of bleeding that can happen during and after a tooth removal. Others are afraid of gagging or choking when the dentist numbs their mouth. Still others have a fear of needles (trypanophobia).

It is important to identify what exactly you are afraid of and discuss it with your dentist. This will help them understand your fear and put you at ease. They can also offer you different coping strategies for your specific fears. For example, some patients find it helpful to write down their fears and bring them with them to the dentist.

If your anxiety about going to the dentist is extreme and prevents you from getting needed treatment, it might be time to talk with a mental health professional. People with phobias often know that their fear is irrational but are unable to overcome it. This can cause them to avoid seeking medical care, which can lead to serious consequences including untreated infections and poor oral health.

Fear of Pain

If your fear of pain keeps you from visiting the dentist, you could end up with dental problems like gum disease, tooth decay, and even bone loss. Avoiding regular visits to the dentist will also prevent you from getting screened for oral cancer, which can be detected and treated in its early stages with routine dentist appointments.

You may think you’re not as afraid of pain as other people, but everyone has different pain thresholds. It’s also important to remember that pain isn’t always as bad as you might think. During an oral exam, you will be told what to expect and the dentist will use anesthetics as needed to keep you comfortable during treatment.

If your fear of the dentist is severe, you can talk to a mental health professional about cognitive behavior therapy and pharmacological interventions (like sedation). Most dentists are familiar with dental anxiety and know how to help you feel more at ease during your appointment. You can even ask for pillows, blankets, and a warm neck wrap to make you more comfortable.

Fear of the Environment

The environment can trigger fear and anxiety because it is difficult to control. This can be due to media coverage of environmental destruction such as global warming or news stories about natural disasters that have affected people’s homes and caused loss of life. Those who have this fear can feel anxious about the impact that they or their generation is having on the environment and may avoid dental and oral healthcare because of this. This is known as ecoanxiety.

In one qualitative study Gao et al. [36] investigated the causative factors of dental fear and found that vicarious learning was a key factor. This included parents teasing children about dentists or having them hear of their friends’ negative experiences with the dentist. This confirmed the findings of Ost that vicarious learning is a major cause of DFA [35].

Another aetiological factor of dental fear, anxiety and phobia is personality traits such as neuroticism and extraversion. Neuroticism is a personality trait associated with a tendency to experience anxiety, while extraversion is linked to sociability. Halonen et al. [41] tested this hypothesis and found that DFA was negatively correlated with neuroticism but positively correlated with extraversion.

Fear of the Hygienist

The relationship between a patient and their dental hygienist is an important factor for those who have dental anxiety. The hygienist is an experienced professional who understands that patients may be afraid and nervous. They do their best to reassure patients during treatment and provide an environment where the patient can feel at ease.

Some people are fearful of feeling pain, even in the presence of a hygienist, or they may be concerned about needles and other tools used during a procedure. They may also be afraid of the noise or smells associated with a dental office. Some of these fears can be overcome with open discussion, short targeted psychotherapy, and/or referral to a psychologist.

Avoiding dental visits can lead to serious consequences. For example, untreated tooth decay can lead to chronic pain and the loss of teeth. Likewise, neglecting gum disease can lead to severe oral health problems such as inflammation, infection, and bleeding of the mouth. These conditions can have a negative impact on quality of life and can cause other serious physical problems.