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Why Do I Fear the Dentist?

Dentophobia is a real fear that affects many
Read Time: 3 minutes
Jan 16, 2023

Are you afraid of the dentist? Many people are, although they tend to judge themselves for it. The Cleveland Clinic recognizes dentophobia as the fear of dentists and states that about 36% of people fear dental treatment, with 12% having extreme fear.

Why Is Going to the Dentist Scary?

A woman looks scared and puts her hands over her mouth as her hands try to put dental tools in it.

There are many reasons that you may fear going to the dentist. Here are just a few:

  • Fear of embarrassment: You may be embarrassed about having a dentist or hygienist so close to your face, feel embarrassed about your dental hygiene practices, or be nervous that your breath smells.
  • Fear of losing control: You may fear that you will lose control under anesthesia or lack control while the dentist is working inside of your mouth, especially because you cannot see what they are doing.
  • Fear of pain: You may fear the pain associated with going to the dentist.
  • Family history: Your risk of dentophobia increases if another family member has it or another anxiety disorder.
  • Past negative experiences: If you’ve had past negative experiences at the dentist, you may develop a deep fear of going to the dentist.

Expecting Pain

Studies have indicated that when we expect something to be painful, we are more likely to report pain afterward. Hence, it might help if you do not expect pain or remind yourself that the appointment will not be painful. You can also talk with your dentist or hygienist about your fear of pain and see what they can do to make procedures as painless as possible. For example, a hygienist can use a water-powered tool to clean your teeth.

Treating Dental Anxieties

Treating dental anxieties takes work on the part of both the patient and dentist –and begins outside of the dentist’s office.

If you know that you fear the dentist, it may be helpful to try to pinpoint the reasons behind your anxieties. Before even making an appointment, look for a dentist whose image and reputation make you feel comfortable, and talk to them about your fears. Dentists know that many people are afraid of dental appointments and should not judge you for opening up.

Talk to Your Dentist

No matter why you’re afraid of the dentist, it’s important to talk to your dentist about your fear. In fact, talking to your dentist might be the single most important thing you can do to treat dentophobia. Dentists are aware that many people are afraid or nervous about their dental appointments and therefore have many techniques they can use to accommodate that fear. However, they can’t help you if you don’t say anything.

Overcoming Embarrassment

A woman in a dentist’s chair covers her mouth as a dentist approaches her with tools.

If you’re embarrassed about your teeth, staying away from the dentist can only worsen your embarrassment over time. Remind yourself that dentists have seen it all, and your dental hygiene is not tied to your morality or worth.

Performing good home dental care for a few days before seeing a dentist may help you to feel a little more comfortable. Talking to the dentist about the reasons behind your embarrassment can allow the dentist to propose solutions that may fix the issues for good.

Speak to a Mental Health Professional

For some people, fear of the dentist goes beyond nerves. It may even be tied to past trauma, which can be difficult to overcome on your own. Because oral health is so important, if your fear is preventing you from visiting the dentist, speaking to a mental health professional is a must. They can help you to get to the root of your fear and may be able to offer techniques to help you get through a cleaning or other dental treatment.

Techniques to Calm Dentophobia

The following are some techniques that you can use to help handle your nerves or fear of the dentist. Make sure to speak to your dentist so they can help you with the technique of your choice.


A girl wears a VR headset and headphones while in the dentist’s chair.

If you don’t like the sounds of your appointment or seeing your dentist and hygienist standing over you, try to distract yourself from them. You can wear dark sunglasses or a blindfold during your appointment. Ask your dentist if you can wear headphones and listen to your favorite music during the appointment. Some dental offices have TVs so you can watch a show or movie.


You can practice progressive muscle relaxation and deep breathing to help make your visits to the dentist’s office easier. Try practicing before you go to the office so you are prepared once you’re in the chair.


You can get more accustomed to the idea of going to the dentist by watching videos of dental procedures, looking at pictures of dentists’ offices, or even going into your dentist’s office before the day of your next appointment. Call your dentist ahead of time to see if they can help you in this progression.

Sedation Dentistry

If fear of pain or of a lack of control while cleanings and procedures are being performed is at the root of your dental anxiety, sedation dentistry might help you to receive care without stress. Sometimes, not being cognizant of the proceedings at all is more comfortable than only being able to see and feel some of what is going on.

Being asleep for the visit will allow the dentist to clean, examine, and repair your teeth as needed. You will then wake up to a cleaner, healthier smile.

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