What is Dental Phobia and Dental Anxiety?

For some people, going to the dentist is nothing more than an inconvenience that they don’t look forward to, but go because it means a clean and healthy smile. For others, just making a dental appointment can be extremely stressful.


These individuals typically have either a dental phobia or dental anxiety. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are actually two separate conditions. It’s estimated that about 9 to 15 percent of Americans don’t go for regular dental checkups with their dentist due to fear and anxiety. This equals about 30 to 40 million people just in the United States who avoid the dentist for these reasons.

Dental Phobia

A dental phobia is a vigorous and arbitrary fear of the dentist. This fear doesn’t necessarily have to grounded in any particular reason, although in some cases, it can be because of something that occurred to them at a dental office.

This fear of seeing the dentist can be so strong that the person suffering from it may not visit the dentist for years at a time because of how intense this phobia can be to them. Some people may put up with painful gum infections, broken teeth, and other issues with their dental health because they’d rather deal with pain then go to the dentist.

Dental Anxiety

Dental anxiety is less severe a reaction than a dental phobia, but it can be just as problematic. A person who has a dental anxiety is going to feel a sense of unease when it’s time to make and attend their appointment. They may reschedule their appointments a few times before finally showing up. They often have a worry or fear over seeing the dentist, but it’s not to the same intense level that a person with a dental phobia.

A Matter of Degrees

When it comes to dental phobia and anxiety, there are varying levels that can impact people differently. Some individuals with this fear may eventually force themselves to go, but make themselves feel very sick over the thought of their appointment to the point where some get physically ill. Others may lose sleep over the appointment. Then, there are some people that have this condition to the point where they cannot even consider making an appointment let alone going to the dentist.

Treatment Options

The good news is, like other phobias and anxieties, there are treatment options available. Some people may require speaking with a mental health professional to help them with getting their dental phobia or anxiety under control. For others, it may be just as easy as going to a dentist that offers sedation dentistry to keep anxiety under control during an appointment.

Often, someone who is tense because of fear will have a lower pain threshold, so any treatments they receive may feel more painful. This can also contribute to muscle stiffness in their back or neck along with increasing the potential for headaches. This is where the relaxing effect of sedation dentistry can improve the ease of dental appointments.

Talking With a Dentist About Your Phobia or Anxiety

Sometimes, it may take an appointment where you just go over your dental phobia or anxiety with a dentist that practices gentle dentistry to learn about your options without the fear of any procedures being done. A consultation can help you to decide on how best to move forward with your dental care and put your fears to ease with knowing that sedation is an option.  Contact us today to set up your consultation appointment.