Common Dental Fears

Most people with dental phobias feel utterly alone in their fear, and when they do voice their fears to others, may get to hear comments like “don’t be silly” or even worse, “nobody likes going to the dentist” (unless they happen to be speaking to an ex-dental phobic).

You are not alone!

In the box on the right, you can find links to some of the most common dental fears.

Where to start?

If you suffer with full-blown dental phobia, you probably won’t have a clue where or how to start. The good news is: you’ve already started! Chances are that it has taken you a lot of courage to google for this information. Your heart would have been pounding (and probably still does), you may have been trembling, you may have broken out in a cold sweat – but you did it all the same! This in itself is an achievement and one you should feel proud of :smile: .

Seeing a dentist is not compulsory, but a choice you may or may not make. If eventually, after some research, you do decide to see a dentist, you need to be informed about current thinking and guidance regarding informed consent.

The General Dental Council’s guidance for dentists (2005) says:

Treat patients politely and with respect, in recognition of their dignity and rights as individuals.
Recognise and promote patients’ responsibility for making decisions about their bodies, their priorities and their care, making sure you do not take any steps without patients’ consent (permission).

Do not settle for anything less than a dentist who adheres to these principles and who really does view people as active partners in their care, rather than passive recipients.

Some questions to ask yourself…

For many if not most people with a dental phobia, the fear is tied up with the dentist-patient relationship. Have a read through the following questions:

  • What would my “ideal” visit to a dentist be like?
  • What would the dentist be like?
  • What would they do?
  • What wouldn’t they do?

You don’t need to answer them now.

How do I use this section?

Read up on the fears that apply to you – you can find links to each fear we’ve covered in the box on the right.

One word of warning – there are some pages (for example the ones for abuse survivors) which could be triggering. If you get too anxious, please stop reading, take some deep breaths, and talk to a friend or do an enjoyable activity. If you need more support than you can find here, please enlist the help of a psychologist.

I have other fears that aren’t listed on this site.

Everyone has somewhat different fears depending on what caused them in the first place. Sometimes fears are caused by things that are unrelated to, but reminiscent of, the dental situation. It’s impossible to cover every possible fear here! If you’d like to get someone else’s input, you can post on our forum.

You will notice that we have omitted some common fears – for example, fear of toothpaste commercials, or fear of people mentioning the dreaded D-word. These are really just reminders of the threatening situation. They are usually not fears in their own right, but “fears by association”. They tend to simply vanish once you tackle your real fears with the help of the right dentist.

Why is it important to identify my fears?

Unless you let your dentist know what it is you fear, he or she won’t be able to help you. They’re not mind readers. You do not need to explain why you are fearful, if you feel uncomfortable with that. But it really helps if you can say what you are afraid of, or even make suggestions as to what your dentist might be able to do to help you with your fears.

Many people have commented that the Common Fears section is the best section of this website, because for the first time they realised that they are not alone and that their fears are not “abnormal”. Hopefully, you will feel the same!

Are there any materials I can use while reading through this section?

If or when the time comes that you want to see a dentist, you can use the following “Handle Me With Care” form if you like. You could bring it along for the first get-to-know you meeting with your potential dentist:

You could also use this for figuring out what it is you fear (and what it is you don’t fear).

If you prefer a more structured approach, you can find some worksheets from the old Dental Fear Central website here:

They’re not great (so much to do, so little time etc.), but may provide a starting point.

Some survivors of sexual, physical and emotional abuse have found it helpful to print out the article below to show to their dentists:

If you are at the stage where you want to make contact with dentists in your area, the following sample letter/e-mail can provide some inspiration:

It can also be useful to write down any tips you come across while reading the Common Fears section that you think might help you!