Fear of the dentist is more common than one may think. Over a third of the population is believed to share this fear (1). With a further 12% suffering from a severe case of dentophobia (1). For some this fear may be felt when just discussing professional dental treatment. For others the fear arises when faced with the act of actually going to the dentist.

Why do some people have a fear of the dentist?

For many of those who are afraid of the dentist, a negative experience is the root cause, often one from a young age (2). This may have had nothing to do with the competency of the dentist. Instead, the pain that sometimes comes with a dental appointment and the lack of control felt may have been the triggers. When this fear becomes large enough it is known as dentophobia.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU AVOID GOING TO THE DENTIST?

The end result of avoiding the dentist is perhaps quite clear, your oral health will be at risk. Poor dental hygiene and lack of professional follow-up can lead to issues such as cavities, inflamed gums, bad breath and misaligned teeth.

The longer you avoid the dentist the greater these issues may become. As the issues you then will have to be treated for increase in severity, the greater your fear may become. Thus, resulting in a bad circle that can be difficult to get out of.

CAN YOU OVERCOME DENTOPHOBIA?

It is possible to treat the issue of being afraid of the dentist. Try to find a dentist that you are comfortable with and that you trust. If possible, look around until you find one that feels right for you. There is no shame in switching from a dentist that does not make you feel comfortable. However, make sure you take the time to familiarize yourself with them, trust takes time to build. Then once you have settled on a dentist, share your fears and concerns. They can work with you to figure out what the best way is to overcome this issue. Possible tactics may include, your dentist avoiding trigger words or having them explain everything they are doing. The optimal way to help overcome dentophobia depends on the individual person.

Sources:

  1. Beaton, Freeman & Humphris (2014). Why Are People Afraid of the Dentist? Observations and Explanations. Medical Principles and Practice, 23(4), 295-301. Link to page.
  2. Kleinknecht, R. A., Klepac, R. K., & Alexander, L. D. (1973). Origins and characteristics of fear of dentistry. The Journal of the American Dental Association, 86(4), 842-848.

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