Why are some patients afraid of going to the dentist? “In our experience,” says Dr David Kerr from Today’s Dentistry, “most patients who suffer from dental anxiety either have a logical or illogical dentist fear.”
Here he explains the two types, so you can identify your dentist fear, then get over the first hurdle and on the path to stress-free dental care.
Patients with logical dentist fear
“This type of dentist fear arises when something bad has happened to the patient in the past,” explains Dr Kerr.
“There could be a logical or rational reason they’re concerned and their fear may not necessarily be related to the clinical setting. For example, they may be anxious they can’t afford dental treatment or worried about how treatment is going to impact on something else in their life.
“Sometimes a patient who wasn’t afraid of the dentist in the past may experience an emotional event, such as a loss in the family or a divorce, and coming to the dentist may trigger their anxiety.”
Patients with illogical dentist fear
“On the other hand, there are people who suffer from completely illogical dentist fear,” continues Dr Kerr.
“They may not even know what their fear is about or understand why they’re anxious. It’s the kind of fear that doesn’t make sense to them.
“We see people who haven’t had any dental treatment done before and they’re anxious – they’re simply scared of the unknown.”
Which of these common dentist fears do you experience?
- Painful or uncomfortable procedures – scared the treatment will hurt
- Feeling embarrassed or ashamed – the dentist humiliated you about not looking after your teeth properly
- Not being in control – tipped back in the chair, feel powerless, don’t know what’s going on, intrusion into your personal space
- Sights, sounds, odours, tastes – sterile decor, bright lights, probing, scraping, drilling, that ‘dental smell’, swallowing fluoride
- Feeling sick, queasy or disgusted – think you might start crying, shaking, have a panic attack or freeze with fear
- Numbness caused by anaesthetic – trouble getting numb and worried it will happen again, being awake during treatment
- Not knowing what the dentist is going to do – concerned about unnecessary treatment
- The cost of dental treatment – worried about it
- Needles or injections – phobia of these or the thought of blood
- Gagging or choking – think you might throw up
- Having an unsympathetic or unkind dentist – a bad experience at the dentist in the past has left you anxious or afraid, don’t like the dentist’s cold and uncaring manner, being lectured or scolded
TIP: strategies to help you face your dentist fear
Here’s a simple tip: slot in an appointment when the dentist is most likely to be on time – not having to sit around and wait will lessen your jitters. We can give you the first appointment of the day or after a break.