What is Odontophobia?

Odontophobia is the exaggerated and unwarranted fear of dental care, most often exhibited as a fear of the dentist. This phobia is also known as Dentophobia. Some people suffer from this 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.).

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

If you have this phobia, you most likely have one of these phobias too ›

Symptoms of Odontophobia

  • 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 Odontophobia

Odontophobia 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.

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

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 contributes as well.

Learn more about the causes of phobias ›

Treatments for Odontophobia

  • 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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