The Internet is such an amazing advancement in technology that it continues to have unforeseen benefits, especially in terms of expanding our knowledge about people and their feelings (good and bad) about the wonderful variety of our world. For instance, who knew that something like pictures of a Grumpy Cat could be so popular that they would warrant a TV show and intellectual property lawsuits? And who knew what strange terrors we would discover that psychologists had never identified.

One of the latter is the strange phenomenon of trypophobia, roughly described as “fear of holes.” But as we come to understand this phenomenon, it’s easy to see the connection between it and people’s strong response to cosmetic smile problems like missing teeth or black triangles.

Fear of Holes, Missing Teeth, & Black Triangles

Understanding Trypophobia

With the free and open exchange of the first thought to come across people’s minds, it has allowed us to freely sample the collective unconscious, and with everyone evaluating what they see, we can essentially crowdsource a psychoanalysis of that unconscious.

One image that had an electric effect on people was an image of a dried lotus pod. These harmless flower remnants are faced with an arrangement of irregular holes. People began to admit that the images gave them the creeps or even caused a chill feeling of terror.

People who felt this horror naturally gravitated into communities and came up with a name for their feeling: trypophobia, a fear of holes. The word comes from the Greek for “punching, drilling, or boring holes.” It’s closely related to trypanophobia, the fear of needles.

The fear has only been described in a loose, informal way, and isn’t currently recognized by the authoritative psychological associations.

However, we may be closer to that recognition thanks to a new study looking at the nature of the fear.

What Causes Trypophobia

We name all phobias with the Greek word for fear, but not all phobias are actually based on fear. Some are based on disgust. Consider the disparity between animal fears. A person with arkoudaphobia, fear of bears, is afraid of bears attacking them, biting, or mauling them. But people who have katsaridaphobia, fear of cockroaches, aren’t afraid that the cockroaches are going to attack and eat them (usually). Instead, they’re mostly afraid that cockroaches will contaminate them, either by touching them or by touching their food, or entering their mouth. This is a phobia based on disgust.

Researchers wanted to know which type of fear was the source of trypophobia, so they showed volunteers a series of pictures that included threatening animals (like snakes), clusters of holes, and neutral images. They then analyzed the volunteers’ pupils, because the way our pupils respond to fearful images show what type of response we’re having. Disgust responses cause pupils to contract, unlike other fears, which may cause no pupillary response or may cause the pupils to widen.

The results showed that people’s pupils contracted in response to the images of holes. Researchers said this shows that the fear of holes is a disgust response. They linked the fear to the way that some diseases will cause open sores on the skin, which people then have an aversion to in order to avoid contamination.

Is Your Smile Full of Holes?

The negative response people have to holes helps us understand why people are so strongly affected by dark holes in a person’s smile, whether these are caused by missing teeth or by black triangles around the bases of the teeth. People are responding to the holes as signals of unhealth.

And there’s some justification there. Missing teeth are usually the result of gum disease, as are black triangles, which are caused by receding gums. These very visible signs of poor oral health can create a strong aversion in people.

Fortunately, you don’t have to live with gaps in your smile. We can help. If you have a missing tooth, it can be replaced with a dental implant or dental bridge. And if  you have receding gums, we can treat black triangles using BioClear or restore your gums with gum rejuvenation.

Are you tired of the negative response caused by your holey smile? Let us help. Please call (949) 551-5902 today for an appointment with an Orange County cosmetic dentist at Rice Dentistry in Irvine.