Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia

Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia

Roughly 10% to 20% of Americans avoid going to their family dentist because of Dental Anxiety or Dental Phobia.

Dental Phobia leaves people panic-stricken at the thought of going to the dentist, and these patients exhibit classic avoidance behavior. They will do everything possible to avoid going to their family dentist. People with dental anxiety often recognize that the fear is totally irrational, but they still suffer from that fear.

Signs of Dental Phobia


  • Escalating anxiety in the dental office waiting room
  • The sensation of feeling ill or crying at the very thought of visiting the dentist
  • Severe uneasiness when objects are placed in the mouth during the dental treatment
  • Difficulty sleeping the night before the dental exam

Why do people suffer from Dental Phobia and Anxiety?


Some of the common reasons include:

  • Fear of pain. This fear usually stems from an early dental experience that was unpleasant or painful.
  • Some of those with dental phobia have heard stories in which other people relate the details of an unpleasant experience.
  • Some people feel a lack of control, lying in the chair while others hover over them.
  • Patients who have experienced domestic abuse or sexual assault may feel particularly vulnerable.
  • Fear of needles, or fear that the pain-killer in an injection won’t work.
  • Some people fear the potential side effects of anesthesia such as the numbness or “fat lip” associated with local anesthetics, or the dizziness and nausea some people experience with general anesthetics.
  • Some people feel uncomfortable with the physical closeness that the dental hygienist and dentist have to their face.
  • Some of those with dental phobia are self-conscious about their oral health or about having bad breath.

The consequences of failing to address this problem may go far beyond dental pain or loss of teeth. Avoiding dental care and preventative maintenance often leads to gum disease which is a serious infection that easily can spread to other parts of the body, and which can contribute to diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

Fortunately, there are dentists who are specially trained in treating fearful patients.

Dentists who are extremely careful about pain control and who take the time to ensure that the patient is both physically and mentally comfortable before proceeding can mitigate some of the anxiety.

A few tips that may help you overcome your fear of the dentist:

  • Go with someone you trust.
  • Listen to music on headphones to distract you.
  • Discuss sedatives which are available or appropriate. Options at Distinctive Dentistry include local anesthetic, oral sedatives, nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”), and intravenous sedation, and general anesthesia. Only a select few dentists are qualified to perform IV sedation.

Dr. Keith Phillips is a sedation-certified dentist, and a board-certified prosthodontist. His expertise and concern for his patients ensures that every patient feels at ease and that their individual concerns are addressed. If you experience dental anxiety, call us at Distinctive Dentistry and our whole team can work with you to make your visit is as comfortable as possible.

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5615 Valley Ave. E., Tacoma, WA 98424


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