Understanding the Effects of Dental Phobia
Dental phobia statistics: Many people are nervous about visiting the dentist's office. Even mentioning the word "dentist" inspires anxiety in anywhere between 9-20% of Americans, equivalent to around 30 million to 50 million people.
The term "dental phobia" covers a wide range of reactions, ranging from low-level nerves the night before an appointment to full-blown panic attacks at the office. These patients often postpone visits or avoid the dentist as a result. But procrastination allows problems to develop unnoticed, including gum disease, tooth decay, and even early tooth loss.
Poor oral care is often tied to more serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions, such as heart disease or lung infections. Dental problems may be early signs of larger issues. Dental phobia may have emotional costs, as well. Stained or damaged teeth can make people feel too self-conscious to smile or speak easily, sometimes lowering their self-esteem enough to affect their personal and professional lives.
While every patient has unique concerns, some common reasons for dental phobia include: fear of pain, fear of injections or a concern that injections will not work, fear of anesthetic side effects, fear of helplessness or loss of control, as well as self-consciousness, embarrassment, or discomfort with a dentist's or dental hygienist's physical closeness. Bad experiences with older technology or dental practices may also leave patients cautious.