Skip to main content

If you experience fear or anxiety when visiting your dentist, consider discussing your concerns with them. By communicating openly, you can collaborate to create a more relaxed experience. Additionally, practicing pro-active breathing and relaxation techniques can effectively calm your nerves and divert your attention from any procedures.

What is Dentophobia?

Dentophobia, commonly known as dental anxiety or dental fear, is a condition where individuals experience a heightened level of unease or fear associated with dental procedures and visits to the dental office. This apprehension can range from mild discomfort to severe anxiety, often leading to avoidance of necessary dental care.

What is the Difference Between Dentophobia and Severe Fear of Dental Treatment?

Dentophobia and severe fear of dental treatment are related conditions but have distinct characteristics:


  • Dentophobia, commonly known as dental anxiety or dental fear, refers to a heightened level of unease or fear associated with dental procedures and visits to the dental office.
  • It can range from mild discomfort to more intense anxiety, often causing individuals to feel apprehensive or nervous about dental appointments.
  • Dentophobia is a broad term that encompasses a wide spectrum of discomfort related to dental visits.

Severe Fear of Dental Treatment:

  • Severe fear of dental treatment goes beyond dentophobia and is characterized by an extreme and debilitating fear of undergoing any form of dental procedure.
  • Individuals with severe fear of dental treatment may experience intense physical and psychological distress, sometimes to the point of avoidance, even when faced with urgent dental issues.
  • This level of fear can significantly hinder a person’s ability to seek and receive necessary dental care.

While dentophobia encompasses various levels of discomfort or anxiety related to dental visits, severe fear of dental treatment represents an extreme form of dental anxiety that can severely impact an individual’s ability to receive necessary dental care, potentially leading to serious oral health complications. It’s important to recognize the severity of these fears and seek appropriate support and strategies to address them.

What Causes Dental Phobia and Anxiety?

Dental phobia and anxiety can stem from various sources, and understanding the underlying causes can be instrumental in addressing and managing these fears. Here are some common factors that contribute to dental phobia and anxiety:

  • Past Traumatic Experiences: Negative or traumatic experiences during previous dental visits, such as pain, discomfort, or perceived insensitivity from dental professionals, can leave a lasting impact on a person’s perception of dental care.
  • Fear of Pain: The fear of experiencing pain during dental procedures is a significant factor for many individuals. This fear may be rooted in a previous painful dental experience or even a general fear of discomfort.
  • Loss of Control: Being in a vulnerable position in the dental chair, unable to see what’s happening, can lead to feelings of helplessness and anxiety.
  • Fear of Needles or Instruments: Some individuals have a specific fear of needles, drills, or other dental instruments. The sight or sound of these tools can trigger anxiety.
  • Anxiety Disorders: Generalized anxiety disorder or other mental health conditions can amplify dental anxiety. These conditions can make it more challenging to manage anxious thoughts and emotions.
  • Sensory Sensitivities: Some people are particularly sensitive to sensations in their mouths, which can make dental procedures feel more overwhelming or uncomfortable.
  • Fear of Embarrassment or Judgment: Concerns about the appearance or condition of one’s teeth and gums can lead to feelings of embarrassment or fear of being judged by dental professionals.
  • Negative Portrayal in Media: Negative portrayals of dentists and dental procedures in movies, television, or even stories from others can contribute to dental fears.
  • Lack of Control Over the Situation: Not knowing what to expect during a dental visit can lead to feelings of uncertainty and anxiety.
  • Cultural or Familial Influence: Cultural beliefs or family experiences with dental care can shape an individual’s attitude toward dentistry.
  • Delayed or Avoided Dental Care: Avoiding regular dental visits can lead to the exacerbation of dental issues, which can increase anxiety about seeking care.

Understanding the specific factors contributing to dental phobia and anxiety for an individual can help tailor strategies to manage and alleviate these fears. This may involve open communication with dental professionals, gradual exposure to dental environments, and the use of relaxation techniques. In more severe cases, seeking support from a therapist or counselor with experience in anxiety management can be beneficial.

Signs and symptoms of dental anxiety

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of dental anxiety is an essential step in addressing and managing this common concern. Here are some indicators that someone may be experiencing dental anxiety:

  • Intense Nervousness: Individuals with dental anxiety may experience heightened nervousness or restlessness in the lead-up to a dental appointment.
  • Increased Heart Rate: A racing or pounding heartbeat, even before entering the dental office, can be a clear sign of anxiety.
  • Physical Discomfort: Symptoms such as sweaty palms, trembling hands, or muscle tension are common physical manifestations of dental anxiety.
  • Avoidance Behavior: Avoiding or postponing dental appointments is a classic sign of dental anxiety. This can lead to delayed or neglected oral care.
  • Difficulty Sleeping Before Appointments: Anxiety about an upcoming dental visit can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to restlessness or insomnia.
  • Feeling Overwhelmed or Panicky: In severe cases, individuals may experience feelings of being overwhelmed, or even panic attacks, at the thought of a dental appointment.
  • Gag Reflex Sensitivity: Some people with dental anxiety may have an exaggerated gag reflex, which can be triggered by dental instruments.
  • Feeling Claustrophobic in the Dental Chair: Being reclined in the dental chair may induce feelings of discomfort or claustrophobia for those with dental anxiety.
  • Difficulty Swallowing: Anxiety can lead to a dry mouth or difficulty swallowing, especially during dental procedures.
  • Verbal Expression of Fear or Discomfort: Vocalizing concerns about dental visits, expressing fear of pain, or sharing negative past experiences with dentistry are common indicators.
  • Elevated Blood Pressure: In extreme cases, dental anxiety can lead to an increase in blood pressure, which can be measured during the appointment.
  • Visibly Distressed or Tearful: Some individuals may become visibly distressed or even tearful during dental visits.

Recognizing these signs and symptoms is an important first step in addressing dental anxiety. It enables both the individual and their dental care provider to work together in finding suitable strategies to alleviate anxiety and ensure a more comfortable dental experience.

Effective Strategies for Permanently Overcoming Dental Anxiety

Overcoming dental anxiety is a significant step towards ensuring optimal oral health. Here are some effective strategies that can help individuals conquer dental anxiety in the long term:

  • Gradual Exposure

    Begin with small, non-invasive procedures to gradually acclimate yourself to the dental environment. As you build confidence, gradually progress to more complex treatments.

  • Open Communication

    Establishing clear and honest communication with your dentist is crucial. Sharing your fears and concerns allows them to tailor their approach and provide the necessary support.

  • Relaxation Techniques

    Practice deep breathing exercises, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation to calm your nerves before and during the appointment. These techniques can help alleviate anxiety. For example, the Dental Fears Research Clinic suggests taking a big breath, holding it, and then letting it out very slowly.

  • Distraction Techniques

    Bring headphones and listen to calming music or an audiobook. Focusing on something other than the procedure can help divert your attention and reduce anxiety.

  • Positive Visualization

    Imagine a successful and comfortable dental visit. Visualizing a positive outcome can help shift your mindset and alleviate anxious thoughts.

  • Regular Dental Visits

    Maintaining routine check-ups can prevent minor issues from escalating into major dental problems. This reduces the likelihood of encountering situations that may trigger anxiety.

  • Therapeutic Techniques

    Consider seeking support from a therapist experienced in anxiety management. They can provide specialized strategies and coping mechanisms to address dental anxiety.

  • Familiarize Yourself with the Office

    Schedule a non-treatment visit to get acquainted with the dental office environment, meet the staff, and ask any questions you may have. This can help reduce unfamiliarity-related anxiety.

  • Bring a Support Person

    Having a trusted friend or family member accompany you to the appointment can provide emotional support and reassurance.

By employing these strategies and seeking the appropriate support, individuals can work towards a more comfortable and positive dental experience. Over time, these techniques can help in permanently overcoming dental anxiety, leading to better oral health and overall well-being.

Can a dentist give you something for anxiety?

Dentists have the ability to provide anxiety relief during dental procedures. One approach involves prescribing medication that can be taken prior to the appointment, inducing relaxation without complete unconsciousness. Another option is the use of nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, administered through a mask placed over the nose to promote relaxation throughout the treatment. It is important to discuss your anxiety concerns with your dentist, as they can recommend the most suitable option tailored to your specific needs, ensuring both your comfort and safety during the procedure.

Anxiety Dentist: Easing Your Worries

We pride ourselves on being an anxiety-friendly dental practice. Our dental team is trained in techniques to help anxious patients feel more relaxed during their procedures. We prioritize open communication and work at a pace that suits your comfort level.


Why Choose Eschenbach Family Dentistry


At Eschenbach Family Dentistry, we have a wealth of experience in addressing the unique needs of fearful dental patients. Dr. Sean Eschenbach, with his extensive background in dentistry, has encountered a diverse range of cases over the years. This rich history has honed our ability to provide gentle, patient-centered care, creating an environment where every individual feels supported and at ease throughout their dental experience.


Dr. Sean Eschenbach brings a high level of expertise to Eschenbach Family Dentistry. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, he completed advanced training during his General Practice Residency at the University of Washington in Seattle. This rigorous education, coupled with years of hands-on practice, equips him to handle a wide array of dental cases with precision and skill. Dr. Eschenbach specializes in cosmetic dentistry and is proficient in utilizing cutting-edge digital technology for same-day esthetic crowns.

Ready to Improve Your Smile? Contact Us!

Don’t allow dental fears to hinder your journey toward attaining the smile you truly deserve. At Eschenbach Family Dentistry, we understand the significance of overcoming dental anxiety for the sake of your oral health and overall well-being. Our compassionate team is dedicated to providing a supportive and anxiety-friendly environment, ensuring your comfort throughout every step of the dental process. By taking the initiative to schedule an appointment with us, you’re not only prioritizing your dental health but also demonstrating a courageous commitment to overcoming any fears that may have held you back. Rest assured, you’re taking a significant stride towards a healthier, more confident smile.

By addressing the extreme fear of the dentist in a compassionate and professional manner, Eschenbach Family Dentistry strives to ensure that every patient, regardless of their level of anxiety, can receive the dental care they need in a comfortable and supportive environment. Contact us today and let’s embark on this transformative journey together.

Leave a Reply