We’ve come a long way since the days of paleolithic flint dental tools and unanesthetized beeswax fillings. Even just since the 70s and 80s, dentistry has become safer, quicker, more effective, and more painless. But despite leaps and bounds in dental technology that have made time in the dentist’s chair easier than ever, dental anxiety is still rampant.
If dentistry has gotten so much less scary, why are people just as afraid of it as ever?
Types of Dental Fear
Of course, “fear of the dentist” isn’t quite that simple. There are lots of fears that make up dental anxiety: Fear of needles, a sensitive gag reflex, claustrophobia, and even simply the fear of loss of control, or the fear of being judged on their oral health habits.
Some people are afraid because they’ve been told horror stories that don’t properly represent modern dentistry. Sometimes those horror stories come from parents or older relatives who lived through a time when dentistry was very different, or are simply outliers or exaggerations. Others have had traumatizing experiences in the past, perhaps in their childhood. But while many people do fear the pain of dentistry, not everyone who experiences dental anxiety is haunted by visions of rough-handed dentists wreaking havoc in their mouths — some people are afraid of making the appointment at all, or of being trapped in a chair with a dentist’s hands in their mouth and no way to communicate.
New methods of anesthesia and highly refined dental procedures have effectively all but eliminated pain from the dental experience. But the wide variety of sources of dental anxiety explain why simply removing pain from the equation may not be enough to end the fear of the dentist forever.
Why Do We Fear Dentists?
Sometimes, fear of the dentist is a simple cause and effect: You had a bad time at the dentist and were never be able to forget it. Or you heard a scary story and it haunts you afterward. But not all dental anxiety is so cut and dry.
For example, some research has suggested that a predisposition to dental anxiety could be passed down genetically from parent to child. Or you may be taking a medication that increases your anxiety levels, affecting your comfort at the dentist. It could even be as simple as the fact that you aren’t getting enough sleep!
No matter the source, dental anxiety doesn’t have to stop you from getting the dental treatment you need. Thanks to advances in sedation dentistry, it’s now easier than ever to conquer your fears and experience anything from a simple cleaning to a complex procedure without fear or pain.
The mild medication used in sedation dentistry won’t knock you out, but it will deeply relax you. You won’t experience any feelings of stress. For some people, one treatment is all they need to conquer their fear and make future visits easier. For others, sedation dentistry is the long-term solution to ensuring their anxiety doesn’t hurt their oral health.