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

What is dental phobia?

A "phobia" is generally specified as "an irrational severe fear that leads to avoidance of the feared object, activity or situation" (nevertheless, the Greek word "fear" simply means fear). Dental phobics will spend a terrible lot of time thinking about their teeth or dental professionals or dental situations, or else spend a lot of time trying not to believe of teeth or dental experts or dental scenarios.

The Diagnostic and Analytical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) explains dental fear as a "significant and consistent worry that is extreme or unreasonable". It also assumes that the person recognizes that the fear is extreme or unreasonable. However, in recent times, there has been an awareness that the term "dental phobia" may be a misnomer.

The difference between stress and anxiety, phobia and fear

The terms stress and anxiety, fear and phobia are frequently used interchangeably; however, there are significant differences.

Dental anxiety is a reaction to an unidentified risk. Stress and anxiety is very typical, and the majority of people experience some degree of dental stress and anxiety especially if they are about to have something done which they have actually never experienced prior to. Generally, it's a worry of the unknown.

Dental fear is a reaction to a known threat (" I know exactly what the dentist is going to do, existed, done that - I'm terrified!"), which includes a fight-flight-or-freeze action when challenged with the threatening stimulus.

Dental fear is basically the same as fear, only much stronger (" I know exactly what happens when I go to the dentist - there is no way I'm returning if I can assist it. I'm so frightened I feel sick"). Also, the fight-- flight-or-freeze response happens when simply considering or being reminded of the threatening circumstance. Somebody with a dental phobia will prevent dental care at all costs up until either a physical problem or the psychological concern of the fear ends up being frustrating.

What are the most common causes of dental phobia?

Bad experiences: Dental phobia is most often triggered by bad, or in some cases extremely traumatising, dental experiences (studies recommend that this holds true for about 80 -85% of dental fears, however there are problems with acquiring representative samples). This not just includes unpleasant dental sees, however also psychological factors such as being embarrassed by a dentist.
Dentist's behaviour: It is frequently believed, even among dental experts, that it is the fear of discomfort that keeps individuals from seeing a dentist. Otherwise, dental phobics would not prevent the dentist even when in discomfort from tooth pain. 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.
Worry of embarrassment and humiliation: Other causes of dental phobia consist of insensitive, humiliating remarks by a dentist or hygienist. Insensitive remarks and the intense sensations of humiliation they provoke are one of the primary factors which can contribute or cause to a dental fear.
A history of abuse: Dental fear is also common in people who have actually been sexually abused, especially in youth. A history of bullying or having been physically or mentally abused by a person in authority might likewise contribute to establishing dental phobia, specifically in combination with disappointments with dental professionals.
Vicarious knowing: Another cause (which evaluating by our forum appears to be less typical) is observational knowing. If a moms and dad or other caregiver is frightened of dental practitioners, kids might pick up on this and learn to be frightened as well, even in the absence James Island family dentistry of bad experiences.
Readiness: Some subtypes of dental phobia might undoubtedly be specified as "illogical" in the conventional sense. People might be inherently "ready" to find out specific fears, such as needle fear. For millions of years people who rapidly learned to prevent snakes, heights, and lightning probably had a good chance to endure and to transfer their genes. It might not take an especially painful encounter with a needle to establish a phobia.
Post-Traumatic Tension: Research recommends that people who have actually had horrific dental experiences (unsurprisingly) experience symptoms normally reported by individuals with trauma (PTSD). This is identified by intrusive ideas of the bad experience and nightmares about dental practitioners or dental circumstances.
Most people with dental phobia have had previous aversive or even highly traumatising dental experiences. True, natural dental phobias, such as an "illogical" fear at the sight of blood or a syringe, most likely account for a smaller portion of cases.

The effect of dental phobia on every day life

Dental phobia can have extensive consequences on an individual's life. Not just does their dental health suffer, but dental fear may result in stress and anxiety and anxiety. Depending on how apparent the damage is, the individual might prevent meeting individuals, even close friends, due to humiliation over their teeth, or not have the ability to take on tasks which involve contact with the general public. Loss of self-esteem over not having the ability to do something as "simple" as going to a dentist and intense sensations of guilt over not having actually cared for one's teeth correctly are likewise very common. Dental phobia victims may likewise prevent doctors for worry that they may want to take a look at their tongue or throat and suggest that a check out to a dentist may not go amiss.

What should you do if you experience dental phobia?

The first and crucial thing to realize is that you are not alone! The most conservative quotes reckon that 5% of individuals in Western countries prevent dentists entirely due to fear. And a lot more are anxious about certain aspects of dentistry. Today, it has actually ended up being much easier to discover assistance via web-based support groups, such as Dental Worry Central's Dental Phobia Support Online Forum. You are not alone, and you may find that sharing your experiences with individuals who really understand exactly what you are going through assists. Most dental phobics who have conquered their fears or who are now able to have dental treatment will say that discovering the ideal dentist - someone who is kind, caring, and gentle - has actually made all the distinction.

It takes a great deal of courage to take that initial step and look up information about your most significant worry - but it will deserve it if completion result could be a life free from dental fear!


Dental phobics will invest a horrible lot of time believing about their teeth or dental professionals or dental scenarios, or else spend a lot of time trying not to believe of teeth or dental practitioners or dental scenarios.

Someone with a dental fear will prevent dental care at all expenses until either a physical problem or the psychological problem of the fear becomes frustrating.

Many individuals with dental phobia report that they feel they would have no control over "what is done to them" once they are in the dental chair.
A lot of people with dental phobia have had previous aversive or even highly traumatising dental experiences. Today, it has actually ended up being much easier to discover support by means of web-based assistance groups, such as Dental Fear Central's Dental Fear Assistance Forum.

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