Dentophobia: Why are You Scared of Dentists?

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January 17, 2019
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Most people likely do not enjoy going to the doctor or the dentist. At best, it is inconvenient and simply disrupts your day. At worst, it can be completely unsettling and even terrifying for some people. Even if you have a clean bill of health every time you go and you have never had a cavity, chances are you are not necessarily pumped about going to the dentist. For some people, they have an extreme fear of the dentist which is called dentophobia. You might think dentophobia is simply the fear of dentists. However, there is more to the fear than just being afraid of going to get your teeth cleaned. It can be helpful to understand all the components to this particular phobia because it may provide insight on the specific aspects of the dentist a person is afraid of.

The dentist themselves. Some people are intimidated by doctors or have even created a persona of what type of person they believe doctors are. Doctors, including dentists, can get a reputation of being very robotic and unfriendly, lacking “good bedside manner.” Your fear could come from being afraid of the actual person and the character you have created in your mind.

The pain. When it comes to the dentist, there is the possibility of pain. A simple cleaning can cause soreness and an overzealous hygienist can get too into flossing causing the gums to bleed. Discomfort is very common and pain can be a real fear for some. Especially if you have had cavities or other serious dental issues, you likely want to avoid pain at all cost because you have experienced pain on previous visits.

Potential numbness or gagging. There are some individuals who have a sensitive gag reflex. With someone probing around in your mouth, some people might gag more easily. It could contribute to a fear of vomiting during the process. With certain procedures that requiring numbing, the fear of gagging or choking can increase.

The sensations. Whether it is the smell of latex, the sound of the drill, the taste of metal, or the sight of the sharp, curved tools used, all of it can be unsettling. It is difficult as some of those senses are unavoidable. When the senses are triggered, it can create a direct pathway to the fear, the anxiety, and the phobia.

The needles. Not every trip to the dentist will involve using needles. However, people may avoid dentists or doctors due to a fear of needles. The fear can be so intense it can cause the individual’s blood pressure to raise as well as fainting. It can leave people with the desire to avoid the dentist to ensure they will not have to face a needle.

Oral hygiene is important in many cultures around the world. While maintaining overall health is important, dentophobia can become a serious problem for people and potentially affect their health long-term. Understanding the aspects of dentophobia can help you target the specific area you may need to address. Along with applying therapeutic tools and techniques, finding a patient and trustworthy dentist, and potentially taking medication to manage anxiety, facing your phobias can become a reality. If you find yourself with issues that prevent you from living your life in a healthy way, addressing something like dentophobia can radically improve your overall quality of life both physically and mentally.

Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant in sports psychology.  Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.