What is Dentophobia?

Dentophobia, also known as Odontophobia, is the exaggerated and unwarranted fear of dental care, most often exhibited as a fear of the dentist. Some people suffer from the phobia to such an extremity that simply seeing a dental image can cause distress.

Dental phobia seems to be an increasing phenomenon, possibly because as doctors become better at spotting and treating phobias more cases are being properly identified.

Since discomfort during treatment is common, a concern about dental care is natural, and it is thought that most of the adult global population fears dentists at least to some degree.

This phobia is linked to other medical phobias such as the fear of needles (Tryphanophobia), fear of doctors (Latrophobia), and others (such as fear of hospitals, pain, etc.). Some notable cases of Dentophobia have been so extreme that the phobics' avoidance of dental care led to serious medical problems.

The root word 'dento' is Latin meaning 'tooth' or 'teeth' and the word 'phobia' comes from the Greek word ‘phóbos’ meaning 'fear.'

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Symptoms of Dentophobia

  • Extreme Anxiety, Dread

  • Shortness of Breath
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dry Mouth
  • Confusion / Inability to Articulate Clearly
  • Lack of Focus
  • Irritability
  • Shaking
  • Feelings of Powerlessness
  • Obsession with the Subject of the Phobia
  • Fear or Feelings of Losing Control
  • Avoidance Behavior
  • Headaches

Learn more about phobia symptoms ›

Causes of Dentophobia

Dentophobia is a specific (or “isolated”) phobia, centered on non-social key factors. Isolated phobias tend to have some previous trauma (often in childhood and often physically injurious) as a root cause; a fear of bees may stem from an injury in childhood, for instance.

Upbringing can also play a role, such as parental warnings about a direct threat (such as “snakes can bite and kill you”) which is especially notable in cases where a threat is more imminent. (An allergy to bees or peanut butter, for instance, would naturally reinforce a real medical concern.)

It is thought that genetics and hereditary factors may play a role in specific phobias, especially those related to a danger of injury. (A primal “fight or flight” reflex may be more easily triggered in those with a genetic predisposition, for instance.)

By contrast, social phobias (like a fear of body odor or touch) are less well-understood, are driven by social anxiety, and are broadly labeled as “social anxiety disorder”.

In all kinds of phobias, external experiences and / or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected. In extreme cases, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation, seeing something in the news, on TV, or in the movies.

Dentophobia, like most phobias, stems from a subconscious overprotection mechanism, and as with many phobias can also be rooted in an unresolved emotional conflict.

In most cases, people experience Dentophobia because of prior traumatic experiences at the dentist, but the phobia can also occur if the sufferer has had traumatic experiences with doctors in general. Phobics can have their fear triggered by seeing a doctor of any kind, smells associated with medicine or hospitals, or imagery associated with any medical field.

Negative portrayals of dentistry or dental pain in mass media and cartoons may also contribute to the development of dental fear. Helplessness and perceived loss of control during dental treatment also contributes to this.

Learn more about the causes of phobias ›

Treatments for Dentophobia

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

  • Habit Strategies To Relax
  • Cognitive Therapy (CT)
  • In Vivo Exposure
  • Response Prevention
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Energy Psychology
  • Medication
  • Meditation

Learn more about phobia treatments ›

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