For many people, the mere thought of going to the dentist triggers feelings of anxiety and fear. The Anxiety Disorders Association of America estimates that around 15 percent of Americans - over 45 million people - suffer from dental anxiety or dental phobia and it is probable that many more not included in this figure would identify themselves as experiencing dental fear or anxiety.
The causes of dental anxiety and phobia can range from a fear of pain, fear of needles or doctors to past experiences of stress and discomfort. An individual's predisposition to anxiety can also play a key role.
Dental Fear, Dental Phobia or Dental Anxiety?
Though the phrases dental anxiety, dental fear and dental phobia are often used interchangeably to describe a range of symptoms and reactions to dental practices in general, important distinctions can be drawn between them, which can be useful in finding effective dental treatment options.
Anxiety refers to the sense of unease associated with the unknown. If you suffer from dental anxiety, you may find that working with a dentist who is sensitive to your needs and communicates with you to create a comfortable atmosphere can greatly improve your experience and help you to overcome your anxiety.
A phobia is an intense and possibly irrational reaction to a specific situation or object that is perceived as threatening. If you suffer from dental phobia you may react to the sound of a drill, the expectation of pain or another aspect of dentistry for which you have a strong dislike or fear.
Overcoming dental phobias, especially if they are particularly intense, can be more complicated than dealing with anxieties and may require professional assistance. Dental fear is the term often used for a more mild form of dental phobia.