Written by the Dental Fear Central Web Team
Last updated on July 22, 2020
Where do I begin?
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”.
You are not alone!
In the sidebar on the right (or below, if you are on a mobile device), 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!
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 publication Standards for the Dental Team (2013) says that dentists must:
- Treat every patient with dignity and respect at all times.
- Take a holistic and preventative approach to patient care which is appropriate to the individual patient.
- Communicate effectively with patients – listen to them, give them time to consider information and take their individual views and communication needs into account.
- Recognise and promote patients’ rights to and responsibilities for making decisions about their health priorities and care.
- Give patients the information they need, in a way they can understand, so that they can make informed decisions.
- You must make sure you have valid consent before starting any treatment or investigation.
- Patients can withdraw their consent at any time, refuse treatment or ask for it to be stopped after it has started. You must acknowledge their right to do this and follow their wishes.
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 (but by no means all) 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? – Identifying your fears
Read up on the fears that apply to you – you can find links to each fear we’ve covered in the right sidebar at the top of this page (or below if on a mobile device).
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. The Samaritans have a free helpline you can call on 116 123 (UK and Ireland). It’s open 24 hours, 365 days of the year.
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. 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 tend to vanish once you tackle your 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 convey 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.
There are several ways of doing this:
- face-to-face (by telling the dentist in person)
- entering into an email or Facebook conversation beforehand
- handing a piece of paper to your dentist when you meet them
- telling them over the phone.
Choose whichever you feel most comfortable with.
Many people have commented that the Common Fears section is the best section of this website (as well as the Success Stories), because for the first time they realised that they are not alone and that their fears are not weird or 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 (we’re in the process of updating and modernising this form, so stay tuned). 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 here:
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:
Some survivors of sexual, physical and emotional abuse have found it helpful to print out the article below to show to their dentists:
Or you might like to print out these quick info cards for abuse survivors:
They can be printed out, laminated and given to the receptionist, doctor or dentist when you come in for your appointment, or given to the nurse or other health care provider. You could also create your own cards using Word or Pages, if you’d like to adapt the text to your particular needs. If you’d like to laminate them at home, you can buy self-sealing laminating pouches, or use clear packing tape.
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.
And, of course, feel free to join our forum for support!