Between nine and fifteen percent of people in the United States avoid seeing a dentist because of fear. This is considered to be dental phobia. Dental phobia can stop someone from seeing a dentist, even when they are facing tooth loss or are in pain from a toothache.
Phobias are intense, irrational fears of situations, events or objects. In the case of dental phobia, it is the intense fear of seeing a dentist. For some, the anxiety is so intense, even seeing a commercial relating to dentistry can bring about anxiety symptoms.
Most phobias interfere with daily functioning, however, dentistry is not something people do on a daily basis. Dental health, research shows, impacts overall health and self-esteem. Not going to the dentist can impact a person’s health and decrease their self-esteem. If someone avoids needed dental care, his or her teeth may be a source of embarrassment. They may feel self conscious in social situations or begin to avoid social situations altogether.
According to an article, “What is Dental Phobia?” on the website DentalFearCentral.org, the fear of dentists can be part of another type of anxiety. Twenty percent of people with dental phobia also suffer from another psychiatric disorder, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, agoraphobia or depression.
Causes of Dental Phobia
There are a few different reasons people may develop dental phobia:
Previous bad experiences with a dentist, either the experience caused a great deal of pain or a dentist previously humiliated a patient.
Dental phobia has been associated with previous sexual, physical or emotional abuse by a person in authority. This is especially true if combined with bad experience with a dentist.
Humiliation by a Dentist
Some dentists are uncaring in their approach toward patients and will humiliate a person or give insensitive or demeaning remarks. It is this psychological pain patients try to avoid.
Learning Dental Phobia
When parents have dental phobia or even a mild fear of dentists, they can pass on this attitude through actions and remarks made. Children can grow up believing a dentist is someone to be scared of.
How Dentists Can Help
Dentists today are more aware of this problem and some dentists actually advertise they work with anxious patients. Some of the ways these dentists help patients are:
Using sedation during visits to help a patient relax.