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Home > Dental Conditions > Dental Anxiety > The Causes Of Dental Anxiety And Dental Phobia Are Rooted In Fear
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The Causes Of Dental Anxiety And Dental Phobia Are Rooted In Fear

Causes of dental anxiety and dental phobia from bad experiences?

It's not unusual to have a secret fear. Some people are so scared of flying that neither love nor money will ever convince them to set foot on an airplane. Others turn to jelly when confronted by an "itsy-bitsy" spider. For many, dental anxiety causes that secret fear; and it's having a major impact on their quality of life.

Whether you experience a touch of dental anxiety or suffer from a clinical case of dental phobia, you have a serious problem if your fear of dentists is preventing you from getting regular dental care. Facing up to the causes of dental anxiety is important. Often treated as a joke, dental anxiety is no laughing matter. It's not uncommon for individuals to have such intense dental phobia that, for years, they live with the debilitating pain of a toothache or gum disease rather than seek help from a dentist.

Fear leads many sufferers of dentist anxiety to try unproven folk or over-the-counter remedies in futile attempts at finding lasting relief. Simply put: Avoiding the dentist can have disastrous consequences.

Scared of Dentists?

Join the club -- it's a big one. According to a study by a researcher at the University of Wuppertal in Germany, 80 percent of adults in the United States, Europe and Asia are apprehensive about receiving dental treatments. It's clear that the causes of dental anxiety and dental phobia know no border. The study found that in the U.S. alone 20 percent of adults consider themselves to be highly anxious; 5 percent are so afraid of the dentist they avoid seeking dental treatment altogether.

Much is known about the causes of dental anxiety. Research indicates that women tend to be more likely than men to experience dental anxiety and dental phobia. The condition often starts early, usually around age 12. Typical sufferers have been scared of dentists for 10 years or more. It's not unusual for people with extreme dental phobia to have decayed or missing teeth. The majority of the subjects in the University of Wuppertal study needed to have a tooth pulled (one needed seven tooth extractions) as a result of avoiding the dentist for years. In fact, some had never been to a dentist visit; only a significant amount of intense pain prompted them to get help. 

The Root Causes of Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia

The causes of dental anxiety and dental phobia are quite varied. Researchers have found a few common factors, including:

Pain -- Not surprisingly, fear of pain is one of the leading causes of dental phobia. Six percent of people who have not seen a dentist in 12 months said that their fear of pain was the reason. This response was most common in adults 24 years or older, leading experts to believe these individuals were deeply affected by early dental experiences (before many of today's "pain-free" dentistry practices were in place).

Embarrassment -- It's easy to forget just how intimate a part of the body your mouth is until there's a stranger peaking inside. Then you remember ... big time! Embarrassment ranks high among the causes of dental anxiety and dental phobia. Fact is many people are embarrassed or ashamed by the highly personal nature of a dental exam. This problem can be exacerbated if they're self-conscious about the appearance of their teeth or are uncomfortable with the dentist's face hovering so near to their own.

Loss of Control -- Mental health professionals know that it's common for people to develop phobias about situations in which they feel helpless or lack control. For these individuals, the combination of factors associated with a dental exam (e.g. lying flat in a fully reclined dentist's chair with a bright light shining in their eyes), can trigger a full-blown panic attack. 

A Bad Appointment or Two -- It doesn't take a lot to make some people scared of dentists. A few negative experiences at the dentist's office -- especially if the patient is a child -- is listed among the most common causes of dental anxiety. Unfortunately, it's relatively easy for many people to extrapolate the pain or discomfort of a past dental procedure into the scenario for all future appointments.

Causes of Dental Anxiety and Phobia in Children

Separation anxiety and fear of the unknown are common causes of dental anxiety in children. Another contributing factor is the child's own parents. Many children can sense when their parents are scared of dentists and then develop their own anxieties, as if by osmosis.

Causes of Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia in Older Adults

Dental anxiety and dental phobia are not unusual in people of any age. What is surprising is that these conditions can suddenly affect older adults who never before displayed an unreasonable fear of dentists. Experts think the onset of dentist anxiety in seniors may be attributed to an older patient's reduced ability to cope with the stress due to certain physical conditions such as vision or hearing loss. Further study into the causes of dental anxiety and phobia in seniors is certainly warranted as the Baby Boom generation ages.

Understanding the Causes of Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia Is Important

You don't have to let dentist anxiety control your life. Great advances are continually being made in treating the causes of dental anxiety and dental phobia, ranging from relaxation techniques and counseling to sedation dentistry and the Dental ButtonTM.

If you need help finding a dentist who specializes in helping patients manage the causes of dental anxiety or dental phobia, call 1-866-970-0441.

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