All About Dental Phobia

All About Dental Phobia

(It’s Sedation Dentistry Month at Corinna Dental Group. One of the reasons people seek to undergo sedation or sleep dentistry is because they experience some degree of dental fear. In this article we discuss dental fear and its more serious condition, Dental Phobia, and ways to manage it.) 

A dental visit may be a routine thing to do for some people but for someone who has dental anxiety, fear or even phobia, a visit to the dentist (or even just the thought of it) is a major concern and often causes enormous worry and stress.


Dental anxiety, fear, and phobia are terms often used to mean the same thing—fear of a dentist or dental procedure — but it is important to differentiate these terms.

 Whilst these terms describe the same phenomenon, the extent of the fear reaction is increasing from “anxiety” through “fear” to “phobia”.

A person who has dental anxiety feels uneasy when his/her dental appointment approaches. This uneasiness is usually caused by an unknown worry over something that the person hasn’t experienced before.

Dental fear, meanwhile, is a reaction to a known “danger”. The person knows what will be done during the dental procedure and he/she dreads the encounter, to the point of avoiding it entirely.

Dental phobia is a more serious case of dental fear. As this article by Colgate’s Oral and Dental Health Resource puts it, Dental phobia is “an intense fear or dread. People with dental phobia aren’t merely anxious. They are terrified or panic stricken”.

Phobia is a well-defined illness, and the correct term for ‘fear of dentistry’ is odontophobia. Odontophobia is not diagnosed by the dental staff but by a trained psychologist or psychiatrist.

Dental Fear and Dental Phobia in Australia

Dental fear is a common condition worldwide. In Australia, a survey published by the Australian Dental Journal in 2010 revealed that out of the 7,312 Aussies interviewed, 16.1% are reported to experience a high level of dental fear. Below is a quick look at the results:

  • Adults aged 40-66 years old had the highest prevalence of dental fear, followed by those in the 16-40 age bracket
  • Adults aged 64-80 have least fear
  • A higher percentage of females (20%) than males (12%) reported high fear
  • People from higher socio-economic status have less fear

Read more about the complete results here.

What People Are Most Nervous About

Dental anxiety, fear or phobia develop for many reasons. Below are the most common reasons, based on the study published in the Australian Dental Journal, “The Avoidance and Delaying of Dental Visits in Australia”.

  • Pain or uncomfortable procedures
  • Feeling embarrassed or ashamed
  • Not being in control of what is happening
  • Now knowing what the dentist is going to do
  • Having an unsympathetic or unkind dentist

Alleviating Dental Fear

It is important to address any anxiety or fear one may have towards dental visit especially if this causes the fearful individual to delay or avoid needed dental visits. There have been several studies linking poorer oral health to higher dental fear . Recognising dental fear and realising that there are ways to alleviate it is an important step towards having good oral health.

This study lists some of the dental coping strategy one can do to reduce anxiety or dental fear are:

  • Distraction — distract yourself by counting to yourself or thinking of something else
  • Distancing — telling yourself the pain feels like something else
  • Praying — that the dental treatment will end soon
  • Optimism — that everything will be OK after the dental treatment

For people who have higher level of dental fear, Sedation or Sleep Dentistry may be an option. Corinna Dental Group offers this type of dental care. Read more about this technique here.