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Updated on May 19, 2023
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Dental Anxiety (Dentophobia)

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What is Dentophobia?

Dentophobia is a deep fear (phobia) of going to the dentist. The condition is also known as dental anxiety.

Most adults in the United States experience some level of dental anxiety but can still make a visit to the dentist. However, there are some who avoid going for a checkup altogether.

How Common is Dentophobia?

One study estimated approximately 36% of the population is afflicted by dental anxiety, with 75% being adults.

It also found another 12% suffer from extreme dental fear of the dentist.1 Dentophobia affects both sexes but is twice as common in women as in men (4.6% vs 2.7%, respectively).5

What Causes Dentophobia?

Some people develop dentophobia after an unpleasant or traumatic experience at the dentist. This can include:

  • Experiencing a painful and/or complicated procedure
  • Being disrespected or dismissed by a dentist or clinic staff
  • Hearing about someone else's bad dental experience

For example, someone who experiences a perforation of the sinus cavity from a tooth extraction may have anxiety about going to the dentist again.

Various anxiety disorders may also cause dentophobia, such as:

  • Algophobia — the fear of pain
  • Trypanophobia — the fear of needles
  • Latrophobia — the fear of all doctors including dental professionals like dental hygienists
  • Emetophobia — the fear of gagging and/or vomiting
  • Aphenphosmphobia — the fear of being touched

Symptoms of Dental Phobia

Some symptoms of dental phobia include:

  • Avoidance of the dentist
  • Refusing specific treatments due to fear of pain, gagging, use of needles, etc.
  • Panicking or crying at the dentist’s office
  • Shaking or trembling at the dentist’s office
  • Nausea with or without vomiting before a dentist visit
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness

Dental Anxiety Treatment Options 

Even though dental anxiety can feel debilitating, skipping out on visits to the dentist can compromise your oral health. Issues like tooth decay, periodontal disease, and oral cancer can become emergencies if not detected early enough.

Fortunately, there are ways to combat dental anxiety. Below are some common treatment options available for dentophobia:


Dentists may use different medications to soothe a person during their visit. These medications include:

  • Sedatives
  • Nitrous oxide
  • A local anesthetic
  • General anesthesia

They may also prescribe anxiety medications such as Xanax or Valium before a dental procedure.

Behavioral & Relaxation Techniques

Some dental practices include psychologists on staff. These psychologists help people manage their dentophobia through behavioral and relaxation techniques.

Common techniques include:

  • Practicing deep breathing exercises
  • Listening to soothing music with headphones (to drown out the noise of loud dental machines)
  • Meditating

People can also practice some of these behavioral therapy techniques at home.

Gentle Dentistry

This treatment approach involves calmly explaining dental procedures as the dentist performs them. The dentist will explain what they're doing in a soothing manner to help people relax in the dental chair.

Once a procedure is done, the dentist may use positive reinforcement to encourage a person and help boost their confidence.

Dental Research

People can often help themselves overcome their fears by doing their research before choosing a general dentist.

If a person believes that they can trust the dentist they choose, they’re likely to feel less afraid. They may even request to meet with the dentist prior to a procedure to make sure that they feel comfortable.

What Can a Dentist Give You for Anxiety?

A dentist can prescribe a variety of medications to treat a patient’s anxiety. This is known as sedation dentistry.

They may give the patient a mild sedative like laughing gas along with local or general anesthesia. Medications like Valium and Xanax may also be used.

Can Xanax Help with Dentophobia?

Xanax may help with dental anxiety in patients. However, it is just one of the ways that dentists can help treat dentophobia in patients.

Can Anxiety Cause Dental Problems?

The biggest concern with avoiding a dental appointment due to anxiety is developing poor dental hygiene. Dental visits are necessary — even for anxious patients — to keep health problems at bay. 

While negative experiences in the dentist’s chair can take a toll on someone’s mental health, forgoing dental checkups can take a toll on physical health too.

Avoiding treatment for too long can lead to painful cavities, a root canal, gum disease, and even oral cancer. Talk to the team at your dental practice about how you can overcome your dental anxiety, together, to ensure that you receive the oral care you need.


  • Dentophobia is a deep fear of going to the dentist
  • It is also known as dental anxiety
  • People with dentophobia can fear different elements of a dental visit, such as fearing pain or needles
  • Dentists can administer medications to soothe a person during their visit
  • Dentophobia can cause more severe dental problems if minor dental issues are not addressed immediately
Last updated on May 19, 2023
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on May 19, 2023
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Beaton et al. “Why Are People Afraid of the Dentist? Observations and Explanations.Medical Principles and Practice: International Journal of the Kuwait University, Health Science Centre, S. Karger AG, 2014
  2. Corry, J. “Dentophobia - What Is It and How Can It Be Helped?Smilelign, 2019.
  3. Dentophobia: How to Overcome Your Fear of the Dentist.Pleasant Family Dentistry, 2020
  4. Overcoming Dentophobia, a Fear of the Dentist.Gentle Dental of Michigan
  5. Leutgeb et al. “Can you read my pokerface? A study on sex differences in dentophobia.” European journal of oral sciences, 2013.
  6. Appukuttan, DP. “Strategies to manage patients with dental anxiety and dental phobia: literature review.” Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dentistry, 2016.
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