Dental Fear in America

Dental phobia, called odontophobia, is a serious, often paralyzing fear of seeking dental care. It has been reliably reported that 50% of the population does not seek regular dental care. An estimated 9-15% of all Americans avoid much needed dental care due to anxiety and fear surrounding the dental experience. This translates to some 30-40 million people so afraid of dental treatment that they avoid it altogether.


Unfortunately, because of dental phobia, many people avoid seeing the dentist when they could have prevented serious or life-threatening situations.


The Typical Causes of Dental Fear:

  • Fear of Pain – Pain is often associated with a dental visit. This can be due to a bad past experience, or from stories shared by someone else.
  • Cost – The cost of going to the dentist is a major reason people don’t want to visit the dentist. This is especially true if they think serious dental work might be required. A recent survey found that 44% of people were not visiting the dentist because they don’t have dental insurance.
  • Fear of Additional Dental Work – Patients fear hearing that there is a problem with their teeth and that they’ll need additional work.
  • Drilling Sound – The sound of the drill can be unsettling especially if they are worried it might be used in their procedure.
  • Tool Fear – A dental office is filled with sharp tools that can be intimidating.
  • Medication Effects Such As “Big Lip” – People fear the effects of the novocaine and anesthesia. The thought of having to deal with a fat lip or feeling groggy can be off-putting.
  • Helplessness – Patients can feel trapped and unable to move while the dentist works on their mouth with sharp tools.
  • Shots – Many people fear shots. Large dental needles going into their mouth can be very intimdating.
  • Fear of Medication Not Working – People can be afraid of the medication not working well enough and that they will be in significant pain from the procedure.
  • Gagging – Some patients fear that they will choke or gag on the tools and water used by the dentist.
  • Self-Conscious – Patients can feel self-conscious with how close a dentist must get to them and that their personal space is being violated. They might also fear that they have bad breath or did a bad job of brushing.


Symptoms of Dental Fear


  • Trouble sleeping the night before
  • Heart racing
  • Dry mouth
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling of suffocation
  • Hyperventilation
  • Nausea
  • Urge to urinate
  • Urge to gag/vomit
  • Fainting or feeling faint


If You Have Dental Phobia We Can Help


Many reasons to fear the dentist are no longer an issue because of advances in technology and science. For example, Dr. Beard provides sedation to eliminate almost the entire list of fears by itself. Advancements in tools such as using lasers create a much less intimidating dental experience.


If you experience symptoms of dental fear, the best solution is to talk to us. Be open and honest about your fears and let us support you. It is our goal to make you feel comfortable and deliver the safe and complete care you deserve.