What is Dentophobia?

We know that going to the dentist is rarely something people get excited about. But for some people, it’s much more than a lack of enthusiasm that keeps them from going to the dentist. Anxiety and even phobias prevent some people from scheduling and keeping an appointment for even just a routine cleaning. We want to address this issue in order to help any of our patients (or potential patients) who are experiencing anxiety or fear about seeing a dentist.

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The Difference Between Anxiety and a Phobia

We take both dental anxiety and dental phobias seriously, but we want to point out that they are different and require different approaches. If you have anxiety about going to the dentist, it may “stress you out.” You may feel nervous and want to avoid going to the dentist. For some people, anxiety may cause physical symptoms, from clammy hands to an upset stomach. With anxiety, you may find yourself worrying about things that may or may not happen and you may even know that some of your concerns are probably not warranted. Your anxiety may make you put off – or avoid altogether – going to the dentist.


While many people may use “anxiety” and “having a phobia” interchangeably, having a phobia is generally a much more serious situation. Instead of being anxious or stressed out, when people have a phobia, they may feel absolute terror – a terror that is generally unreasonable. Someone who is phobic may fear they will have a panic attack or may have experienced a panic attack previously. In many cases, even extreme mouth pain will keep someone with a phobia of dentistry from seeking dental care.


If you experience anxiety or have a phobia regarding dental care, we want you to know that we understand and are here to help. We can discuss methods to manage your anxiety and, in the case of phobias, we can help you find other medical professionals who can help you deal with your phobia.


What Causes Dentophobia?

Dentophobia or odontophobia – the technical name for having an acute fear of dentistry or dentists – affects about 5 – 8% of Americans. Anxiety over dental appointments probably affects many more people, but no one has done effective studies that show precisely how many people suffer from this or how to affects our national dental health. While this percentage may not seem large, it actually represents millions of Americans. So be assured: if you feel this way, you’re not alone.


We do have some clues about what generally causes these anxieties or fears.


In most cases, people who suffer from anxiety or fear about dentistry have experienced some sort of negative event during a dental procedure in the past. For many people, it may have occurred in childhood. And in almost all cases, it involved experiencing pain – often unanticipated pain. This is unfortunate, as it can cause people to stay away from getting the regular cleanings and check-ups that their dental health relies upon.


It’s also common that people feel anxious or have a phobia about dentistry not because of dentistry itself, but because of the position the patient is in when they are at the dentist. Dentists and dental assistants generally get very close to patients in order to perform their jobs properly and this closeness can make some people feel very uncomfortable. For others, simply allowing someone to look closely at their mouth may make them feel embarrassed or uneasy.


No matter what you think is causing your anxiety or phobia about seeing a dentist, we take your concerns and feelings seriously.


Answers to Dentophobia

We may not be able to assuage all your fears today, but here are a few good things to know about dentistry in general and Dr. Sheehan’s practice:


First of all, if you experienced pain during dental procedures as a child, you should know that dental techniques and technologies have improved drastically in terms of pain management and abatement in the last few years.


Furthermore, most dentists today are acutely aware of patients’ concerns about pain, discomfort, and anxiety, whether it’s during a cleaning or a more invasive procedure. In fact, attending to patients’ pain (and fears of pain) is now an important part of the education a dentist completes.


Today’s dentists therefore strive to make their patients as comfortable as possible. Dr. Sheehan and our staff operate our services with the goal of minimal discomfort and anxiety-free dentistry.


However, if your anxiety or phobia stems from something other than a fear of pain, please know that we have helped other patients like you. You can contact us to ask us questions about our experiences with other patients or to find out how we can help you and your particular situation.


What Next?

If you have put off seeing a dentist because you have anxiety or a phobia, you may have found that your fears are now compounded: you may be fearing that the longer you wait, the worse shape your teeth could be in. But that’s no reason to keep waiting. No matter what stage your dental health is, we can help you improve it. We strongly believe in the importance of regular dental care and we want to help you get on track with your dental health.


Dr. Sheehan encourages his patients to discuss any concerns or fears they have with him or his staff before any procedure. We have many different techniques to manage pain and anxiety and we are happy to make your visit to our office as worry-free and pain-free as possible. Please call us today to find out how we can help you.