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Dental Phobia

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Dental phobia, dental fear, and/or dental anxiety have been used interchangeably in the dental literature to describe the overwhelming discomfort that some youth and adults experience in dental situations. (1) People can fear a specific activity, object or situation. People with dental phobia often put off routine care for years or even decades. To avoid it, they will put up with periodontal disease, pain, or even broken and unsightly teeth. People often use the words "anxiety" and "phobia" to mean the same thing, but they are different. Those with dental anxiety will have a sense of uneasiness when it is time for their appointments. They will have exaggerated or unfounded worries or fears. Dental phobia is a more serious condition. It is an intense fear or dread. People with dental phobia are not merely anxious, they are terrified or panic stricken.

People develop dental anxieties and phobias for many different reasons. The fear of pain is most common in adults 24 years and older. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of U.S. adults are considered to experience dental phobia; that is, they are so fearful of receiving dental treatment that they avoid dental care at all costs.(4) Many people develop phobias about situations such as flying in an airplane in which they feel they have no control. When they are in the dental chair, they have to stay still. They may feel they cannot see what is going on or predict what is going to

hurt. It is common for people to feel helpless and out of control, which may trigger anxiety. Embarrassment even, the mouth is an intimate part of the body. People may feel ashamed to have a stranger looking inside. This may be a particular problem if they are self-conscious about how their teeth look. Dental treatments also require physical closeness. During a treatment, the hygienist's or dentist's face may be just a few inches away. This can make people anxious and uncomfortable. Anyone who has had pain or discomfort during... Show More

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