Many people who experience dental fear are afraid of the potential pain that may come with a dental appointment. They worry that even a check-up could come with significant discomfort. This was truer in the past when probing teeth with a metal pick was standard practice for all dentists. The pick could find a sensitive spot in a tooth quite unexpectedly.
Unfortunately, this becomes a self-fulfilling fear. People who don’t go to the dentist as often are more likely to have painful experiences when they do go (especially if they only go when they’re already in pain). Their fear can also contribute to their sensation of pain as they will focus on the sensations, making themselves more uncomfortable.
Loss of Control
Many people feel out of control when sitting in a dentist’s chair. They are seated while the dentist stands. The dentist puts fingers, lights, and tools inside the patient’s mouth. This can make a person feel very out of control.
Previous Bad Experiences
Many people with dental fear had bad experiences with a dentist as a child or young adult. Often this was with older dentists who might have been practicing dentistry that seems quite ancient compared with today’s practices.
However, once the anxiety takes root, it’s hard to convince people that dentistry has changed. Even one or two good modern experiences are usually not enough to help a person realize the strides we have made toward comfortable dentistry. And it must be confessed that not all dentists are aware of and careful in the treatment of patients, which can still lead to bad experiences.
Trauma, Stress, or Other Causes
Many people with dental fear have been hurt in other places in their lives. Their fear may be more general, but still affects their ability to make a regular visit to the dentist. They may be soldiers who are suffering from PTSD, a person who had a car accident, victims of domestic violence, or people who suffered abuse as a child.
They may also have psychological conditions that are responsible for their anxiety.
Another common cause of dental anxiety is embarrassment. People may feel uncomfortable going to the dentist because their mouth is a very intimate part of their body and they don’t like the thought of having a dentist work in it.
They may also be embarrassed because of the poor state of their teeth. This, again, is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more embarrassed a person is, the more they avoid the dentist, and the more they avoid the dentist the more embarrassed they are about the state of their teeth.