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What is Dentophobia (Fear of Dentists)?

Dentophobia is also known as fear of dentists. People with dentophobia feel extremely anxious and worried when they think about going to the dentist or during a visit to the dentist. Some traumas experienced in the past or during childhood, family history or environmental factors can cause fear of dentists. The treatment of the common fear of dentists is planned individually. Usually, exposure therapy, guided imagery and relaxation techniques are used to improve and treat this disorder.

What is Dentophobia (Fear of Dentists)?

Most phobias are actually a type of anxiety disorder. It causes too much fear of an event or situation that would not normally cause any harm. People with dentist phobia may experience serious dental problems if they neglect their dental treatment. Therefore, it is a phobia that needs to be treated. 

Why does dentophobia (fear of dentists) occur?

The causes of dentophobia can include many different factors. While fear of needles is one of the common causes of this condition, a person may feel extremely anxious at the thought of getting an injection in the gums and may resort to postponement by avoiding this situation. In addition to these, the factors that can cause fear of dentists can be listed as follows:

Family history: Having a family member with a phobic disorder or anxiety disorder increases the risk of having a phobia. Genetic factors may be among the causes of this condition.

Traumas: Some traumatic events in childhood, such as violence, abuse or bullying, can lead to a fear of the dentist.

Environmental Factors: Fear of dentists begins in childhood in most individuals. The person may acquire such a phobia because of the scary stories he/she hears from his/her family, environment or relatives. In addition, some parents may instill in their children a fear of going to the dentist as a punishment.

In addition, excessive pain or suffering during the treatment of a dental condition that occurred in the past or in childhood can lead to this type of phobia. The basis of fears usually begins in childhood.

What are the Symptoms of Dentophobia (Fear of Dentists)

The level of fear experienced by people with dental phobia can vary from mild to extreme. These fears can cause some physical and emotional symptoms. Symptoms of dentophobia can be listed as follows:

  • Cry at the thought of going to the dentist
  • Anxiety 
  • Anxiety 
  • Insomnia and sleep problems
  • Trembling
  • Dizziness and loss of consciousness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Some stomach ailments such as indigestion

Dentophobia (Fear of Dentists) Risk Factors

There are some risk factors that can trigger dental phobia. A person may become overly anxious and worried when faced with certain situations. Being in a dental office and bad experiences can lead to the emergence of fears. Factors such as seeing the instruments used in dental examination and treatment, the dentist's chair, and people with a fear of doctors seeing the dentist can be triggers. 

This fear can also occur in people who have one of the different types of phobias, but is more likely to occur in people with specific conditions such as anxiety disorder, panic disorder or substance use disorder. 

Dentophobia (Fear of Dentists) Complications

People who experience intense fear of the dentist avoid going to the dentist even if they have dental conditions, and this leads to deterioration of oral and dental health. The complications that this can cause are:

  • Crooked teeth
  • Gum (periodontal) disease
  • Heart disease (coronary artery disease)
  • Dental loss
  • Pneumonia and respiratory infections

How to Diagnose Dentophobia (Fear of Dentists)

Fear and anxiety surrounding dentists and dental treatments are common, and many people may not realize that the symptoms they are experiencing are abnormal. While a person may experience intense feelings of anxiety and worry when visiting the dentist, this can be diagnosed by the dentist or other specialists. 

The dentist may refer the person to a psychologist or mental health professional. The health professional will examine the complaints, experiences and symptoms to assess what impact the phobia has on the person's daily life. 

The health professional will ask some questions and there are some points to be considered. These include triggers, the type of symptoms experienced, the frequency and severity of symptoms and how much they affect daily life. 

The conditions required for Dentophobia diagnosis are as follows:

  • The fears experienced are extreme, abnormal and recurrent. It can be triggered by the thought of going to the dentist, visiting the dentist or watching a video on the subject
  • Exposure to dentists or dental treatments leads to an immediate anxiety response in most cases
  • Avoidance of going to the dentist when dental treatment is mandatory, experiencing excessive fear, anxiety and distress
  • Fears lasting at least 6 months

Dentophobia (Fear of Dentist) Treatment

There are several different treatment options for the treatment of dentophobia. However, not everyone with dentophobia needs treatment. If the symptoms and signs are mild and do not affect daily life and health too much, treatment may not be necessary.

In addition, treatment may be recommended for people who do not undergo dental treatment due to fear of the dentist, or for people who experience recurrent and severe symptoms. In this case, a personalized treatment plan is created depending on the triggers and symptoms. 

The most commonly used methods in the treatment of dentist phobia can be listed as follows:

Exposure Therapy
Exposure therapy, also known as systematic desensitization, is one of the most commonly used treatments for fear of dentists. This type of therapy provides exposure to triggers in a safe and controlled environment.

Exposure is gradual, starting with the situation that results in the least phobic response, such as looking at a picture of dental treatment or talking about visiting a dentist.
Exposure therapy also helps to address the negative thoughts and feelings experienced in encounters with dentists and to change physiological and psychological reactions. Relaxation and coping techniques are also taught. 

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy can be used as a stand-alone treatment or alongside exposure therapy. It is a type of talk therapy and sessions can be individual or part of a group. Sessions are designed to help identify or change negative perceptions and thoughts about dentists. They contribute to addressing the burning emotions and behaviors associated with them.

Updated Date:11 August 2023Creation Date:04 September 2023