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Dentophobia: What It Is and How to Overcome the Fear


Dentophobia is a really strong fear of dentists and is seen as one of the most common specific fears. Even though we don’t have exact numbers because many people might not talk about it or get diagnosed, it’s believed that around 8 million people in the USA have this fear.

In this article, we’ll explore dentophobia more, including what usually causes it, what sets it off, the signs you might notice, and ways to deal with it.

What is Dentophobia?

Imagine feeling really, really scared of going to the dentist – that’s Dentophobia. It goes beyond just being a little nervous; it’s a strong fear that hits you before every dental visit. If this fear gets so intense that you start avoiding the dentist, especially when you have dental problems like cavities or gum issues, it can make things worse.

Some people also call it Odontophobia. This fear can be super specific, like being scared of a particular dental procedure, maybe like a root canal. It could be about the whole dentist experience – going there, waiting in the room, sitting in the dentist’s chair – or even the entire dental process. Surprisingly, things like seeing dental tools or certain smells, like antibacterial soaps or eugenol, can trigger this fear, even though you might not think of these things right away when talking about being anxious at the dentist.

Dentophobia Vs. Dental Anxiety

Being scared of the dentist can be different for some people. There’s regular dental anxiety, where someone might feel nervous or put off going to appointments. But they still manage to go for checkups and cleanings when necessary.

Now, dentophobia is a bit more intense. People dealing with dentophobia go out of their way to dodge dentist visits until they absolutely can’t ignore a tooth problem anymore. Phobias like this one go beyond regular anxiety – they can really stress people out and make them want to steer clear of the dentist’s chair.

Causes of Dentophobia

  • Negative Experiences

If someone had a bad or scary experience related to dentists before, it can lead to dentophobia. This fear might come from a negative event during childhood or adolescence. Even if the bad experience didn’t involve a dentist, any painful or traumatic situation with your mouth or teeth can also cause dentophobia.

  • Negative Perception of Dentist

Sometimes, movies and TV shows show dentists in a scary way, like as evil or crazy characters. If kids see this negative side of dentists early on, it can make them really scared of going to the dentist.

  • Hypersensitivity to Pain

People who feel pain more intensely than others might be hypersensitive to pain. For them, dental treatments can feel more painful, making them link dentists with a lot of pain. This connection can turn into a strong fear of dentists over time.

  • Learned Phobia

Sometimes, people can learn to be afraid of something, and this can happen when they observe someone else being scared. If you saw someone with a fear of dentists when you were a kid or a teen, you might end up feeling the same way. Also, if others in your family have a fear of dentists, you might pick it up too.

  • Bad Experiences

If you’ve been through tough times like abuse or bullying, it could make you more likely to develop a fear, like being scared of dentists. This might be connected to feeling like you’re not in control or not comfortable with others touching you, especially if you’ve had a rough past.

  • Dealing with Stress

Having a lot of stress for a long time or going through really tough situations can make your fear reactions bigger than they should be. If you’re already stressed out and then something scary happens at the dentist, it could lead to you developing a fear of dentists.

Dentophobia Symptoms

When someone has dentophobia, they might show different signs. Feeling nervous is common, but it can also lead to things like feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or even getting queasy. Some people might cancel appointments because they’re avoiding the dentist.

The signs of dentophobia can be mild or strong, and they might include:

  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Heart beating fast
  • Having panic attacks
  • Being super nervous
  • Putting off or avoiding appointments
  • Having bad dreams about dental visits
  • Crying
  • Feeling grumpy
  • Not wanting to eat
  • Using substances to cope

Ways to Overcome Dentophobia

  • Face Your Dental Fear

Start by acknowledging and dealing with your fear of going to the dentist. It’s okay to admit if you feel nervous. Tell yourself, “I’m a bit anxious about my dental appointment, but I can handle it.”

  • Find a Dentist You Trust

If the idea of going to the dentist makes you uneasy, look for a dentist you feel comfortable with and can trust. Seek out a dentist who understands that some people get nervous about dental visits. Some dentists specialize in helping people who feel anxious about dental appointments.

  • Keep Your Mind Busy

If thinking about the dentist makes you more anxious, try to distract yourself. Bring something to focus on during your dental appointment. Many people find that having a distraction in the dental chair helps them feel better.

  • Chill Out with Breathing

When nerves kick in, we often forget to take a good breath, making things even more stressful. But guess what? Trying some easy breathing tricks can actually keep you cool before and during your dental visit. Give it a shot next time, and see if it makes a difference.

Here are a few to consider:

  1. 4-7-8 Breathing
  2. Mindful Breathing
  3. Diaphragmatic Breathing
  • Friendly Faces for Support

Feeling jittery about your dental appointment? No worries—bring a buddy! Having a friend or family member tag along can ease those nerves. Some people feel way more at ease when they have someone they trust hanging out during their appointment.

Dentophobia Treatment Options

  • Exposure Therapy

For those scared of the dentist, exposure therapy is like taking small steps to get used to it. It helps by slowly introducing the scary stuff, making the uncomfortable feelings go down.

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy

In cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), people learn how thoughts impact feelings and actions. With dentophobia, it helps change thoughts to deal with the uneasy feelings about going to the dentist.

  • Medication

To make dental visits less stressful, some people with dentophobia take anxiety medications. Medicines like Ativan, Valium, or Xanax can be prescribed to help them feel more relaxed before the appointment. It’s like a little extra support to make the visit easier.

  • Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy uses hypnosis to ease anxiety about the dentist. It helps people relax and look into the hidden reasons behind their fears.

  • Dental Sedation

Dental sedation is a method that uses medicine to help people relax during dental procedures. It helps patients feel calm and comfortable while getting dental work done.

Closing Thoughts

So, there you have it – dentophobia is real, but it’s also something you can tackle. Whether it’s facing your fear, finding a dentist who gets you, or trying out different therapies, there are ways to make dental visits less of a scary movie and more of a chill experience. Remember, you’re not alone in this, and there are friendly ways to conquer dentophobia. You’ve got this!


Why do I have a fear of the dentist?

For some people, being scared of the dentist (odontophobia) might come from having a painful or not-so-great experience with dental work before. For others, they might not even know why they feel this way. But, no matter the reason, there are things you can do to feel less worried before, during, and after dental visits.

How common is dentophobia?

Surprisingly, more than 35% of grown-ups feel nervous about going to the dentist. And about 3% of people avoid the dentist completely because they’re super scared (dentophobia).

Can I be put to sleep for dental work?

Yes, dentists can make you sleep for long procedures, but our team usually tries to keep you awake with a little sedation first. Still, if you’re really, really anxious, going to sleep is an option too.

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