Dentophobia

Author: Kimberly N. Powell, DDS, MS, FAGD

When I was in dental school, my instructor told us that we will be the most hated people in the world. I didn’t understand it so much at the time, but I get it now. I have heard “I hate the dentist” several times. It is understandable considering someone is invading your personal space with a scary needle. Who wants that?  This fear of the dentist (known as dentophobia or odontophobia) is among the top reasons adults avoid us with the main deterrent being cost. This fear causes patients to avoid the dentist at all cost and consequently a worse condition of their oral cavity including decayed teeth, non-restorable teeth leading to extraction, and poor gum health results. We understand that the cause of the anxiety and fear is different for each patient as well as the therapy needed to address it. A bad childhood experience, association of dentist with pain, fear of shots, fear of gagging or choking are factors that cause people to stay clear of the dental office. To help manage these fears, we first acknowledge and validate them, establish trust, and avoid creating patient shame. Some measures that we use at SLDG have proven to be effective such as playing music, watching patient selected movies, use of laughing gas, taking a pill for oral sedation, informing patient of cost before treatment is initiated, and my favorite, humor.  The goal is to make the appointment as comfortable and predictable as possible so visits wont be consigned to just emergency care but preventative, and hopefully each visit will be better than the previous one.

 Source of information in this article is from AGD Impact, May 2021, vol. 49, no.5 issue.