Fear of the Dentist - Is "Dental Fear" a Misnomer?

What is dental phobia?

A "fear" is traditionally defined as "an illogical serious worry that causes avoidance of the feared object, situation or activity" (however, the Greek word "phobia" just implies fear). Exposure to the feared stimulus provokes an instant stress and anxiety response, which may take the form of a panic attack. The phobia causes a great deal of distress, and influence on other aspects of the individual's life, not just their oral health. Dental phobics will spend a terrible great deal of time considering their teeth or dental practitioners or dental circumstances, otherwise spend a great deal of time attempting not to consider teeth or dental practitioners or dental scenarios.

The Statistical and diagnostic Manual of Mental Illness (DSM-IV) explains dental phobia as a "marked and consistent worry that is extreme or unreasonable". It likewise presumes that the individual acknowledges that the fear is unreasonable or excessive. In recent times, there has been a realization that the term "dental phobia" may be a misnomer.

The difference between fear, phobia and anxiety

The terms anxiety, worry and fear are typically utilized interchangeably; nevertheless, there are significant distinctions.

Dental stress and anxiety is a response to an unknown risk. Anxiety is incredibly common, and most people experience some degree of dental anxiety specifically if they are about to have something done which they have never experienced before. Basically, it's a fear of the unknown.

Dental fear is a response to a recognized threat (" I understand exactly what the dentist is going to do, existed, done that - I'm afraid!"), which involves a fight-flight-or-freeze reaction when faced with the threatening stimulus.

Dental fear is generally the very same as worry, only much stronger (" I know what occurs when I go to the dentist - there is no way I'm going back if I can help it. Somebody with a dental fear will prevent dental care at all expenses till either a physical issue or the mental problem of the fear becomes overwhelming.

What are the most common causes of dental fear?

Disappointments: Dental phobia is frequently brought on by bad, or in many cases highly traumatising, dental experiences (studies recommend that this is true for about 80 -85% of dental fears, but there are problems with obtaining representative samples). This not only includes painful dental visits, however likewise mental elements such as being humiliated by a dentist.
Dentist's behaviour: It is typically believed, even amongst dental experts, that it is the fear of discomfort that keeps individuals from seeing a dentist. Otherwise, dental phobics would not avoid the dentist even when in pain from toothache. Lots of individuals with dental fear report that they feel they would have no control over "exactly what is done to them" once they are in the dental chair.
Fear of humiliation and shame: Other causes of dental fear include insensitive, humiliating remarks by a dentist or hygienist. Insensitive remarks and the extreme sensations of humiliation they provoke are one of the primary aspects which can cause or contribute to a dental fear.
A history of abuse: Dental fear is also common in individuals who have been sexually abused, especially in childhood. A history of bullying or having been physically or mentally abused by an individual in authority may also add to establishing dental fear, particularly in combination with disappointments with dental experts.
Vicarious knowing: Another cause (which judging by our online forum seems less typical) is observational knowing. If a parent or other caretaker is terrified of dentists, kids might pick up on this and learn how to be terrified as well, even in the lack of disappointments. Hearing other people's horror stories about agonizing visits to the dentist can have a comparable result - as can kids's motion pictures such as "Horton Hears a Who!" which portray dental check outs in a negative light.
Readiness: Some subtypes of dental fear might certainly be specified as "unreasonable" in the standard sense. Individuals might be inherently "ready" to learn specific phobias, such as needle phobia. For countless years individuals who quickly learnt how to prevent snakes, heights, and lightning probably had a great chance to survive and to transfer their genes. So it might not take an especially painful encounter with a needle to establish a fear.
Post-Traumatic Stress: Research suggests that people who have actually had dreadful dental experiences (unsurprisingly) suffer from symptoms typically reported by people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is characterized by intrusive thoughts of the bad experience and headaches about dental experts or dental scenarios.
A lot of individuals with dental fear have actually had previous aversive or even highly traumatising dental experiences. True, natural dental phobias, such as an "irrational" worry at the sight of blood or a syringe, probably account for a smaller portion of cases.

The impact of dental phobia on every day life

Dental phobia can have wide-ranging effects on a person's life. Not only does their dental health suffer, however dental fear might cause stress and anxiety and depression. Depending on how apparent the damage is, the person might prevent conference individuals, even close friends, due to embarrassment over their teeth, or not have the ability to handle jobs which include contact with the general public. Loss of self-confidence over not having the ability to do something as "basic" as going to a dentist and extreme sensations of guilt over not having looked after one's teeth appropriately are also very common. Dental fear sufferers might also avoid physicians for worry that they might want to take a look at their tongue or throat and suggest that a check out to a dentist might not go amiss.

Exactly what should you do if you suffer with dental phobia?

The most conservative estimates reckon that 5% of people in Western countries avoid dental professionals entirely due to fear. Today, it has become much easier to find support via web-based support groups, such as Dental Fear Central's Dental Phobia Support Forum. Most dental phobics who have overcome their worries or who are now able to have dental treatment will state that finding the right dentist - somebody who is kind, caring, and mild - has made all the difference.

It takes a great deal of guts to take that first step and look up info about your most significant fear - but it will deserve it if completion outcome could be a life free from dental phobia!


Dental phobics will spend a terrible lot of time thinking about their teeth or dental practitioners or dental circumstances, or else spend a lot of time trying not to believe of teeth or dental professionals or dental situations.

Someone with a dental phobia will avoid dental care at all costs dentist on James Island up until either a physical problem or the psychological burden of the fear ends up being overwhelming.

Numerous people with dental fear report that they feel they would have no control over "exactly what is done to them" once they are in the dental chair.
The majority of people with dental phobia have had previous aversive or even extremely traumatising dental experiences. Today, it has actually become much simpler to find support through web-based support groups, such as Dental Worry Central's Dental Phobia Assistance Online Forum.

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