Fear is something that everyone experiences at some point in life…it’s one of the most basic emotions that we experience. From the moment we’re born, survival instincts are embedded in our DNA to respond to our fears or when we feel we’re in some type of danger; some people would call this the “fight or flight” reaction while other simply say, “it’s them or me and it sure isn’t going to be me!” It’s situations where you have some type of control that allow you to have those types of reactions.
To go against the situations where you have a little bit of control, what do you do when you’re in a situation where you feel like you have absolutely no control? A situation where you can’t “fight or flight?” Now, imagine having this feeling while sitting in the chair at your dentist’s office. Having this type of feeling at a dentist’s office is what leads to dentophobia. It also accounts for why 12% of the American population doesn’t go to the dentist, according to the National Center for Biotechnology and Information.
What is Dentophobia?
Dentophobia is an extreme fear of the dentist or dental work. People who experience dentophobia put off going to the dentist leaving them to suffer through minor to major forms of toothaches and mouth pain. Now, of course, there are minor toothaches that don’t require dental visits. For example, the pain of teeth sensitivity can be remedied with a certain type of toothpaste that you can buy over-the-counter but even with that, if the pain gets too unbearable, you’re going to need to speak with your dentist about it.
Other toothaches can require major dental work like getting cavities filled, root canals, and wisdom tooth removal procedures. Even with this extreme fear of the dentist or dental procedures, did you know that dentophobia is often stemmed from other phobias? Dentophobia typically associated with these other phobias:
- Trypanophobia: Fear of needles
- Agoraphobia: Fear of being in situations or places where you feel trapped
- Iatrophobia: Fear of doctors
These fears, in addition to dentophobia, is the leading cause of gum disease, tooth decay, and other oral diseases all due to being so afraid of the dentist that they won’t schedule an appointment to see the dentist. Even procedures such as making the mold for dentures can be terrifying to those with this crippling phobia.
The Fears Associated With Dentophobia
Fear of Gagging or Numbing Sensation
Patients who have a hard time breathing or those who have choked before, have a big problem with their mouths being numb. They fear that with their mouths being numb, they might not be able to breathe or will experience choking again.
Sound and Smells in the Dentist Office
People who’ve had traumatic experiences at the dentist office will often have their fears re-triggered when they experience the sounds and smells of the dentist office, especially if they hear the sound of the drill.
Whenever people have dental procedures done, whether major or minor, nine times out of ten, there will be some type of local anesthetic that will be given and that needle to the gums can be very painful for both adults and children. Just seeing and type of sharp objects in the dentist office can drum up fears in any patient of any age.
Pain is something that lots of people fear but have different tolerance levels. Luckily, with the advancements in medicine, it’s very possible for people to have dentist visits with little to no pain at all. Those who have extreme sensitivity towards pain are going to have a harder time going to the dentist.
There are certain doctors that just automatically seem cold and heartless while there are other doctors that people just feel more comfortable being around… dentists are those doctors in the category of being cold and heartless. It’s really an unfair assumption because there are dentists in the world who are the nicest individuals with the most gentle touch who truly have your dental health at heart but dentophobia turns them into givers of pain!
Symptoms Associated With Dentophobia
- Avoiding the dentist altogether, which then leads to needing more serious dental procedures that are more invasive and probably more painful.
- Having a massive panic attack. This can make a patient want to run out of the dentist’s office or not be able to go all the way through with a procedure or simple cleaning.
- Feeling nauseated
- Extreme shaking
Overcoming dentophobia is something that’s going to be easier said than done for most people but it must be done for the health of your teeth and mouth. The key to overcoming dentophobia communication. If you know you have an extreme fear of the dentist and dental work, you need to communicate this to your dentist so that they can work with you to help you overcome your fear and treat you accordingly.
Lots of dental offices offer sedation dentistry while other offices have dentists with psychological training. Dentists with dentophobia patients often explain dental procedures in calming ways and also provide positive reinforcement. The most important takeaway is to communicate your fears with your dentist, that is the only way you’ll be able to get control in a situation where you would otherwise feel out of control.