Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia- Explained


Going to the dentist isn't just a schedule interruption for many people. Whether adults, teens, or children, many Americans become anxious even thinking about dental visits. In these situations, we tend to hear the terms dental phobia or dental anxiety. Surprisingly, though, the two are not interchangeable and are separate conditions.

In an article published by dental supply company Colgate, it's been estimated that between 9% to 15% of Americans ( approximately 30 to 40 million people, by the way!) are so overwhelmed by the dentist's office that they just don't go. The British Dental Health Foundation found that 36% of those that don't regularly see a dentist won't go because of their intense levels of fear.

With so many people are at such unease about the dentist, let's discuss the differences between dental phobia and dental anxiety.

Dental Anxiety

Of the two, dental anxiety is less severe. Dental anxiety is still tricky, despite not being as intense. Those with this issue feel uneasy when it comes to appointments, whether scheduling, attending, or anything dentistry-related that's in between. For those with dental anxiety, dental visits or anything related to being in a dentist's office is stressful and usually causes high levels of stress. Many sufferers of dental anxiety are notorious for rescheduling appointments.

Dental Phobia

Dental phobia is more severe than dental anxiety. In the case of dental phobia, sufferers aren't just anxious but genuinely fearful of any activities revolving around the dentist or dental office. This tremendous fear can be so intense that those with dental phobia may not see a dentist for years, even if they have infections, broken teeth, or worse. Often, this strong fear can cause unintentional degradation of dental health.


What Causes Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia?

Both forms of dental displeasure can arise from varying factors. Here are the most common:

●     Loss of control: Patients may feel as if they don't have control over their situation and can become anxious or panic. They can't directly see what's going on inside their mouth but are on edge anticipating the possibility of pain.

●     Pain: This is probably the number one fear-inducer of dental anxieties and phobias. If a previous incident has left a patient in tremendous pain, or even any pain at all, even if they've recovered from that pain quickly, they still remember and fear a repeat situation.

●     Less than desirable past dental experiences: Much like pain, and even often caused by past pain, patients remember when we've been wronged or hurt. Whether they've had a traumatic encounter with an outrageous bill or a dentist that was far less than kind, patients tend to protect themselves by using fear as a mechanism to prevent these uncomfortable types of events from recurring.

●     Embarrassing dental situations: Sometimes, patients are embarrassed to have their teeth seen, even by professionals. They may think they haven't taken good enough care of their teeth; they expect there will be judgmental or laughing staff or are maybe even embarrassed that they haven't been in a dental office in years.

Do I Have Dental Anxiety or Dental Phobia?

Here are some of the signs that you may experience if you have dental anxiety or dental phobia:

●     You don't sleep or function as well as you usually when a dental exam is upcoming

●     You feel physically sick when you contemplate dental visits

●     You feel panicky or feel as if you can't breathe right when dental objects are used in your mouth during an appointment

●     Being in the waiting room of a dental office makes you feel incredibly nervous

●     The idea of dental staff or dental instruments make you feel like you might break down crying at any moment

If any of these explain how you feel about even the idea of a dentist office, you likely suffer from some degree of dental anxiety or dental phobia.
Don't worry. We can help.


How We Can Make Dental Unease Better

If you're unsure about how you could feel better about your dental stresses, give us a call and talk to one of our warm-hearted, experienced staff members. If you tell us what about dentistry leaves you feeling the most fearful or upset, we can inform and provide you with the many options our clinic offers to make your dental experience safer and more pleasant. When you're in our office, our main priority isn't just the health of your teeth, but your comfort.

Whether you need a routine checkup or you're in need of emergency dental services in Plymouth, Minnesota, we at Life Smiles provide a wide array of options for all ages, including dental implants in our Plymouth location.

Remember that most of all, we want to help ease the unfortunate and sometimes exhausting discomfort of dental fear. We're here for you. Contact us today!