Fear of the Diagnosis

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Written by the Dental Fear Central Web Team
Last updated on January 17, 2021

I’m petrified at what the dentist will find. I cannot cope with hearing ‘the diagnosis’. I feel so sick at the thought I could cry.

I’m terrified I’ve left it too late and the dentist will want to pull all my teeth. I don’t want people to see me toothless.

Many people worry about finding out what and how much needs to be done. You may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of not being able to cope with the bad news. Also, you may worry about not being able to afford dental treatment.

Do yourself a big favour and stay away from Dr. Google!

If you have avoided dentists for a long time, you may need a lot of treatment. But then again, you may not. You’ll come across a lot of posts on our forum where people were pleasantly surprised at how little treatment they needed, even after a very long absence. It used to be common that people needed fillings every time they went to the dentist, but things like fluoride toothpaste and fluoridated water supplies and drinks have led to a decrease in tooth decay in the general population. When you suffer with dental phobia, you tend to assume worst-case scenarios.

Nowadays, many treatments are available that can save teeth which used to be deemed unsavable in the past. Even badly broken down teeth can often be saved. There are also better and less invasive treatments available for things like gum disease.

What if I do need a lot of treatment?

Some people will need extensive work or dentures to get their mouths healthy again. Most of the time, this would be very apparent to you and those around you.

But the prospect of being able to smile again and no longer being in pain can be a great motivator for getting things sorted. For example, many posters on our forum who had been hiding their smile for years feel that getting dentures has dramatically improved their quality of life.

Still, the fear of “the diagnosis” can be overwhelming and prevent people from seeking help. The prospect of not being able to cope with “the bad news” (imagined or real) can be very frightening and a real deterrent from taking the first steps towards making an appointment.

Dealing with feelings of regret

People often regret the length of time they have waited before seeing a dentist because of their anxiety. The video above may be helpful with dealing with these emotions.


  • If you don’t think you could cope with “the diagnosis” the very first time you see a dentist, you should let them know. Ask your dentist to break the bad news gently, maybe at the next appointment, when some rapport and trust have been built.
  • You could also have just an x-ray or a quick look-see during the first appointment (if you want to take it further than a chat), and make it clear that you don’t want to fully know about the condition of your mouth just yet.
  • Many people worry that they won’t be able to afford the dental treatment they need. While dental treatment can be expensive, there are usually alternative solutions available to fit different budgets. Also, you can often split the treatment into phases and complete it as you can afford it.
  • “Not knowing” and constantly worrying about what may or may not be wrong is very stressful. Most people feel a great sense of relief once they know what’s wrong and how it can be fixed. Having a plan of action can make you feel in charge of your life again.
  • A lot of people worry that they’ll have teeth removed and that others will see them with missing teeth. This is not so. In almost all cases, dentists can make a temporary denture. You can wear this straight away and nobody will ever know that a tooth or several teeth are missing. The same goes for full dentures.

Knowing that you’re not alone with your fear and that other people have felt the same way and came out at the other end can also help. That person you’re feeling jealous of right now could be you!

Visit our support forum to get help with this and other fears, or to simply get things off your chest!

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