Dental phobia is an umbrella term that encompasses a vast range of fears associated with the dentist and dental procedures. Below are some of the common fears experienced by people with dental phobia:
- Loss of control. People with dental phobia may have a fear of being out of control. The ‘turtle on its back’ position assumed in the dentist’s chair can leave people feeling defenceless, vulnerable and exposed.
- Embarrassment. Some people with dental phobia are so embarrassed and ashamed of their teeth that the idea of a dentist/hygienist/pretty dental assistant laughing at or mocking their teeth leaves them severely distressed. Human beings are social animals and need positive social evaluation.
- Needles. A fear of needles can be traced back to a genetic survival instinct and the impulse to avoid harmful objects such as snakes, lightening and, of course, needles.
- Smell. The notorious smell of the dentist can result in a primal fight-or-flight response in some people with dental phobia. The antiseptic ‘Eugenol,’ derived from clove oil, is responsible for the strong smell found in most dentists and is actually a healing agent.
- Sights. The sight of the sterile whitewashed walls, the dentist chair and face mask are all powerful visual reminders of real or imagined fear.
- Pain. Some people are absolutely terrified at the prospect of experiencing pain at the hands of their dentist. This can result from a previous painful dental experience or another painful and/or traumatic experience.
- Crying/making a fool of yourself. The fear of crying and/or breaking down in fear is enough to completely deter people from attending their dental appointments.
- Gagging/vomiting. Emetophobia (fear of vomiting) and gagging can also create extreme fear of dental situations.