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The Psychology Behind Your Feelings About the Dentist

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Are you afraid of visiting the dentist or is it no problem for you? The truth is many people suffer from dental anxiety. The official name for dental anxiety is odontophobia, and it is said to affect 30% of the adult population and 43% of children.  

Even though mild anxiety is commonplace or even expected, those who experience a deep fear when receiving dental care may cancel appointments and avoid treatments. This could result in serious oral health issues if problems go untreated.

Gaining knowledge about the reasons you may have anxiety about visiting the dentist can help you overcome your fear because there are many reasons a person may suffer from dentophobia. We spoke to dentist Dr Goodman who provided information about the psychology behind those feelings.

Negative experiences with dentists

The most common cause of dental fear is probably negative experiences that occurred in childhood at a dental office. Your fear and anxiety could be due to a painful procedure or unpleasant attitude that was received from a dental health care provider. This has the potential to scar you for a very long time.  A normal person would be led to assume that any visits in the future would be unpleasant if they had an unpleasant experience with a dentist in the past.

You should know that one negative experience doesn’t necessarily mean that you will undergo the same experience again on the next occasion. The best course of action is to seek out a dentist who is sensitive about your concerns if you are suffering from this form of anxiety. 

Your dentist should be willing to do everything in his power to ensure that you are at ease during the procedures. After a while, your positive experiences will begin to outweigh your negative ones. This will be effective in helping your fears to subside naturally.


Members of our family, as well as our observed reactions and behaviors, are great sources of dental anxieties. Your parent’s behavior might be the cause of your love (or hate) of dental visits. Not only that but, mothers who had high levels of anxiety had a higher likelihood of having children who reacted negatively to a dental situation.

Anxiety about specific stimuli

Patients may not be entirely fearful of the dentist in some cases. There may actually be certain aspects of procedures or treatment that increase their stress levels to the point of being difficult to manage. For instance, some patients may only be uncomfortable with the idea of a dentist using a drill or needles. 

Patients who suffer from misophonia, a condition where certain sounds are difficult to bear, may be okay with the treatment itself but have difficulty tolerating the accompanying noises that happen when various forms of equipment are being used.

Perhaps, the best way to remove these issues is to look for a dentist that you trust and talk to them about your fears before the start of the treatment. This allows them the chance to give avenues that may assist you in feeling more at ease or recommend ways for you to reduce your anxiety. 

For example, some patients may like the idea of having a stress ball at hand, creating a method for them to release some of the physical tension. Others may benefit from using headphones to listen to music. This gives them a way to block out unpleasant sounds.

In situations where simple options are not enough, then there may be other methods. Enteral conscious sedation has been shown to help patients feel more comfortable. During these procedures, the dentist would give the patient oral medication to help them to have a more relaxed disposition while ensuring that they remain in full control of their senses.

Tips on how to manage dental anxiety

  • Regularly visit your dentist. You’ll gradually feel more comfortable if you visit the dentist every 6 months for checkups because your visits will get easier. In addition, you will benefit from better dental health.
  • Talk to your dentist. If you speak to your dentist about your anxiety, he or she will know the best methods to put you at ease. Remember that you’re not the first anxious patient, and you will not be the last.
  • Choose the right dentist. The right dentist can make all the difference when it comes to your experience at the dental office. If you’re concerned about your fear of seeing a dentist then you should see a dentist who is familiar with your specific type of anxiety.

The sensory experience of the patient is an area that is largely glossed over in the dental community. In modern times, almost every dental office claims to offer gentle dentistry, personalised care, and a warm and welcoming staff. The team should do more to make the patient experience more than marginally better. 

Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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