Causes and Treatment of Dental Fear


Some people allow fear or anxiety to keep them out of the dental office. Most of the patients we have encountered, that are either nervous or downright afraid to see the dentist, have one of the following reasons:

  • Bad experiences from the past
  • Preconceived notions about what to expect (that are usually not true!)
  • Fear of the UNKNOWN!

Do any of these reasons resonate with you? Or, maybe you are nervous or downright fearful of going to the dental office for other reasons. At PV Dentistry we are here to help you!

Bad Experiences From the Past
The first reason for fear is bad past experiences, sometimes in childhood. My own mother as a child had a dentist who refused to give Novocain so he could do the procedure faster! I have heard similar stories from patients’ pasts, either the dentist not getting the patient numb, not waiting for the patient to be numb, or pushing through the procedure in spite of it causing discomfort.

First, let me assure you that we always will be responsive to your level of comfort. My brother told me a story where he raised his hand in the middle of a filling to let the dentist know he started to feel it. He even started making noises to let the dentist know it was starting to hurt but was ignored. I was horrified to hear that, because I would never continue a procedure if a patient needed me to stop for any reason whatsoever!

Let's also remember that it important that people have as good of an experience as possible, in the first place!

Preconceived Notions
Let's talk about the second big reason we see fear in the dental office: preconceived notions. Some people imagine the dental office with various torturous procedures that allow no escape. Nothing could be further from the TOOTH (haha - sorry couldn't avoid the joke). We make sure that every patient has as comfortable an experience as possible. We find that once patients have a thorough understanding of what happens at the dental office and what to expect, those fears melt away. But more on that later ...

The Unknown
The third reason that we've found that patients become fearful of their dental visits is the fear of the unknown. If you don't know what to expect, it definitely can be nerve-racking.

Now let’s talk about what we do for EVERY patient here at PV Dentistry to make you feel at ease.

First, we are going to tell you exactly what to expect at every appointment. We won't stop until you are satisfied you understand what to expect and what is expected of you. Of course, some of our patients don't want to know the details, and that's okay too, because we customize it to you.

On your first patient visit, you are greeted at the door by name. Dr. Henderson tries to greet every patient in the lobby, and we make the lobby as comfortable as possible. We are going to introduce you to every new face and show you around the office. One of the biggest antidotes to fear is knowledge!

The first visit comprises of minimal paperwork (I don't like paperwork either!), a brief tour of the office, and a comprehensive set of images we sometimes call "x-rays" or "radiographs,” as well as gathering information. We take measurements of the gums, do a comprehensive oral cancer screening, chart existing dental work and thoroughly check for problems.

This is a painless and very comfortable process. We are always going to be honest with you about the state of your mouth. We know that in the long run, honesty is the ONLY policy. But you still have the right to either choose the treatment or not, and this is important for fearful patients to understand: you are in charge! Every single one of my patients understands that if they need the procedure to stop (for any reason whatsoever), I will stop. Simply raise your hand, and we will find out what is bothering you.

Lastly, there are a number of ways to handle fear, which are sometimes important for patients who need a little extra help. There is absolutely no reason to be ashamed about needing some medication to assist you through the process. The doctor and the patient make that decision together after an open conversation and thorough review of the medical history, as well as risks, benefits and alternatives.

Even talking about some of the solutions to dental fear can sometimes cause anxiety, because dentistry does contain some risks. Being honest about that is better than pretending they don't exist. At PV Dentistry, it is very important to us that you thoroughly understand these risks and have all your questions answered. Again, one of the biggest antidotes to fear is knowledge and understanding.

Keep in mind though that compared to dental work you are statistically taking a bigger risk by getting in your car and driving. But the truth is most of us know that. Sometimes fear and anxiety isn't rational. I would hope that no patient would feel tempted to judge themselves. Mostly, I hope our patients understand that we are here for you and we would never judge you!

Written by: Harold Henderson, DDS September 5, 2019