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Dental phobia

Dental phobia is generally defined as a fear of dentists and dental work, however in reality it may be a complex condition involving one or more of a wide range of fears that centre around the dental experience. These may range from the negative associations of the sights, smells and sounds of the dental surgery with childhood experiences, to specific fears such as

  • Fear of dentists: for many people, dentists represent authoritarian figures that are there to check how well we’ve looked after our teeth. This kind of perception often stems from childhood visits to the dentist.
  • Fear of needles: fear of needles is a common phobia which is all the more difficult to cope with in dental situations. 
  • Fear of pain: the avoidance of pain is a natural instinct. Many patients who experienced pain at the dentist as a child find it very difficult to go back.
  • Fear of numbness: many people are unable to visit their dentist because they are afraid of being unable to call for help or control the level of pain they receive. They feel that, if they are under local anaesthetic, for example, they may find it difficult to communicate with their dentist.
  • Fear of choking: fear of choking is another common phobia which makes everyday life difficult. One area where is becomes particularly acute is at the dentist.
  • Fear of anaesthetic: most people do not fear anaesthetic but the thought of what could happen. They are phobic about feeling the pain, of not responding to the anaesthetic, or of being allergic to anaesthetic. 
  • Fear of the dental drill: the drill is an iconic symbol of dentistry for many people, and sums up everything they fear about dentistry. The distinctive sound is often enough to stimulate an anxiety attack amongst phobic patients. 
  • Fear of being embarrassed: many phobic dental patients will go to great lengths to avoid a visit to the dentist. This creates its own problems as the worse their teeth and oral health becomes, the more anxious they become about visiting the dentist. 
  • Fear of diagnosis: finally, fear of diagnosis is the fear of a simple check-up turning into an expensive, long procedure that runs out of the patient’s control. For phobic patients, therefore, the ‘solution’ is usually to avoid the check-up. 


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