Dentophobia | 3 min read

What is dentophobia?

Dentophobia, also called odontophobia, is a fear of visiting the dentist. People with dentophobia may experience extreme anxiety at the thought of going to the dentist or while in the dentist’s chair. People with dentophobia avoid seeing the dentist and this condition is so severe that it can result in bad oral health, which is regarded as one of the most critical aspects of overall health.

What are the causes of dentophobia?

Dentophobia can stem from several emotions related to concerns over oral health, possible previous bad experiences, and other causes such as: 

  • Family history – Your risk of having a phobia increases if you have a parent or family member with a phobic disorder or anxiety disorder. If you have a gene mutation (gene change), you may have more anxiety than others.
  • Fear of pain is a common reason for avoiding the dentist. This fear usually stems from an early dental experience that was unpleasant or painful, or from dental “pain and horror” stories told by others. Thanks to the many advances in dentistry made over the years, most of today’s dental procedures are considerably less painful or even pain-free.
  • Fear of injections or fear the injection won’t work – Many people are terrified of needles, especially when inserted into their mouth. Beyond this fear, others fear that the anesthesia hasn’t yet taken effect or that it wasn’t a large enough dose to eliminate any pain before the dental procedure begins.
  • Feeling embarrassed – You may feel uncomfortable that the dentist or hygienist is close to your face. You may also feel worried about how your teeth look or your breath smells.
  • Feeling helpless – The experience of lying in a chair and having your mouth open for an extended period can make you lose control. 
  • Modeling – Hearing someone talk about their fear of dentists can spark the same phobia in you.
  • Past negative experiences – People who have had a negative traumatic experience going to the dentist may develop dentophobia. Traumatic experiences may include being afraid of going to the dentist as a child, having dental procedures performed without your consent, or having a procedure that caused pain or complications.
  • Traumatic history – A history of abuse, such as bullying, child abuse, or sexual violence, can lead to dentophobia.

What are dentophobia symptoms?

Dentophobia symptoms can range from mild to extreme. They include:

  • Developing chills.
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness.
  • Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis).
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea).
  • Trembling or shaking.
  • Trouble sleeping the night before the dental examination.
  • Feelings of nervousness that escalate while in the dental chair or waiting room.
  • Crying or feeling physically ill at the very thought of visiting the dentist.
  • Intense uneasiness at the thought of, or when objects are placed in your mouth during the dental treatment, or suddenly feeling like it is difficult to breathe.

How to cope with dentophobia?

Given the importance of oral care to your overall health, a fear of the dentist should not hold you back from regular check-ups and cleanings. The following tips can help you cope with dentophobia:

  • See the dentist at a less busy time of day, when there will be fewer people and fewer tools making noises that could trigger your anxiety. The morning times are better because anxiety may build up during the day in anticipation of the dental visit.
  • Bring earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones with music to help you relax.
  • Ask a friend or a loved one to accompany you during your appointment.
  • Practice deep breathing and other meditation techniques to calm your nerves.

Visit an Intercare dentist to overcome dentophobia; Intercare Medical and Dental Centres have several tried and tested techniques to help you face your fears.


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