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Does Your Patient Have Dentophobia?

girl looking scared with hands covering her mouth

The nerves and slight stress some patients feel when heading to the dentist are quite common.  About 75 percent of adults in the US experience this sensation. However, an estimated 10 percent experience so much fear and anxiety it’s classified as a phobia. Not only does this have a negative effect on their mental health, but can be detrimental to their oral health.

A brief overview

The causes for this phobias range widely from traumatic experiences, historical mental health issues, or both. Most common symptoms of extreme anxiety and panic are often shown through hyperventilation, excessive sweating, nausea, dry mouth, shaking and a number of other reactions.

While dentophobia is the fear of going to the dentist, the core reasoning behind that fear can widely vary between people. That’s why often times odontophobia, the fear of teeth or dental surgery, is often used as a synonym for dentophobia. Often times it’s the fear of the dentist themselves or the fear of feeling pain. In other cases, it’s the fear of needles, numbness, loss of control, or even certain smells and sounds which are the root trigger for this severe fear.

Treatment options

It comes as no surprise that the condition of oral health in these individuals is not the best. But luckily there are different treatment methods so these individuals are able to get the care they need. We can break the types of assistance that are offered to these individuals into two categories: sedation and solution.

Solution Approach

A solution approach is focusing more on helping the individual heal and overcomes their mental afflictions. These steps include more counseling based operatives with professional help. Often time this is individual counseling exclusively sought out by patients. As a dental professional, this area might seem limited to try to get involved in, but there is the potential to create meaningful connections with the community. Fear clinics are one way which provides opportunities for psychologist and local dentists to work together in teaching techniques to help diminish and manage the fear and anxiety. While these are not very common currently, there are some practices that have employed this technique. Outside of community support, options like meeting with the patient beforehand can be beneficial for both parties. This can be a prime time to discuss if the patient should bring in a support person, a comfort object, an iPod for music or other tools to help assist in calming the patient during the appointment. Relaxation techniques can also be suggested and taught if it seems it would benefit the patient’s situation.

Sedation Approach

A sedation approach refers to using different methods or medications to sedate the patient for the cleaning or procedure. This can be anything from using a laughing gas or prescribing anxiety medication before the appointment. In these situations, dentists and phobic patients meet together before an appointment to discuss the details.


Handling fear is hard for everyone, but for those dealing with a phobia, it’s practically impossible. Luckily, their families and loved ones are not the only ones who can provide assistance in this battle.  If you haven’t already, now is a great time to become educated on Dentophobia and ways you can get involved in helping patients through this. If you have any tips, thoughts or stories you would like to share, comment below! We'd love to hear from you!

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