Exploring Dental Fear

What is Dental Fear?

Dental experts estimate that between 30 million and 40 million American suffers from such intense fear of the dentist that they actively avoid visiting the dentist. Dental fear is a recognized psychological disorder characterized by deeply felt unease, dread, and panic when a sufferer is confronted with the prospect of receiving dental care. Some people seem to have been born with it, because it manifests in early childhood. Other people develop it in adolescence or adulthood. Regardless of when a person begins to experience it, this fear is very real and it can be harmful to one’s oral health.

What Causes Dental Fear?

Why do some young children seem to dislike the dentist from their very first visit? There’s no scientific answer, other than the simple fact that we’re all born with distinct personalities. Some people are easygoing and adapt well to new experiences. Others are cautious, anxious, and reluctant to step out of their comfort zones.

The question of why some people spend most of their lives with no problem visiting the dentist only to suddenly become afraid of the dentist is easier to answer. Overwhelmingly, when someone develops a fear of the dentist when they are older, it’s because they’ve suffered a traumatic or painful experience that has scarred them. Perhaps an adult goes in for a root canal and the dentist begins the procedure before the local anesthetic takes effect. Even a short-lived jolt of pain can create a lasting negative memory. Sometimes, a sudden fear of their dentist can be traced to an external trauma – such as having tooth knocked out during an accident. The bottom line is: a patient who used to have no trouble going to the dentist but suddenly is apprehensive about it usually can report that he or she has experienced pain associated with their teeth.