Dentist all over the world have experience with patients that have fear of dentist, dental fear, dental anxiety or dental phobia, call it however you want. This is an inconvenience for both dentist and patients – dentist have a hard time working with their patients since they are not relaxed enough and patients tend to skip dental appointments or even regular check-ups due to dental fear. And unfortunately, you can rarely find solid and practical advice on how to cope with this kind of fear.
Probably the most problematic part about dental fear is that in can turn an irrational fear into a problematic experience. Because of this, dentist often consider the needs of an anxious patient.
Patients that skip dental appointments due to fear from the dentist, are actually doing more harm than good. Missing out or regular appointments and check-up can result in serious dental issues, which not only affect the patient’s teeth but his/her overall health. So by avoiding your dentist, you can end up with dental issues that are highly expensive to pay and take longer to fix.
So what is the origin of dental fear?
To make things really simply, most patients that have fear of dentists have had bad experience in the past. That is the most common reason. But what are the other potential reasons?
Bad experience – This can be from painful dental procedures, embarrassing moments with the dentist or frightening visit to your dentist. According to some survey, 23% of dental patients experienced some sort of fear with their dentist and a staggering 71% of patients actually had painful experience with dentist. The remaining percentage goes towards embarrassing situations with their dentist. Bad past experience can be a cause of fear of dentist in 22% and this applies on the general population, not specific age groups or genders. Some people even call this ‘conditioned’ fear because your previous bad experience at the dentist changes your perception of the future and you see every future dental appointment as traumatic. Which of course is not true.
Bad press – This is also called the ‘informative pathway’. This type of cause influences both children and adults alike. A fear of dentists manifests as a result of a negative image of certain dental procedures, in movies, magazines or on social media. For example, some tv shows displayed the root canal procedure as extremely invasive and painful. That’s not really helpful, is it?
Influence of parents – One additional cause of fear of dentists could be your parents. As you know, children mimic the behavior of their parents. So if the parents sometimes see you being afraid of the dentist, it’s most likely that they will develop such fears.
Verbal threats – We’ve all seen this, when parents threaten their children that they will take them to the dentist if they don’t brush their teeth thoroughly enough. This can cause some anxiety too. So instead of threatening your children, try and teach them what good oral hygiene looks like and try making that habit a joyful one.
Fear of pain – Let’s face it… no one like pain. And yes, some dental work might result in some pain or discomfort. But this is a vicious circle. You don’t go to the dentist because you’re afraid of pain, which can result in pain (if you have dental issues) and then when you do go to the dentist, you might experience even more pain than you most likely would in the beginning. Like we said…a vicious circle.
Fear of needles or injections – Some patients have problems with injections for dental works. However, in order to make some dental work less unpleasant, local anesthetic is necessary. And furthermore, some patients even fear that the anesthetic won’t work and they will feel pain regardless.
So there you go! These are the most common causes of fear of dentists. In our upcoming articles, we will focus on the difference between fear and phobia and relief techniques used to make dental visits less stressful and more pleasant.