Dental fear is common. Perhaps 75% of dental patients experience some level of dental anxiety, and up to 20% of people avoid the dentist altogether because of their level of fear. Although dental fear is common, it’s not the same for all people. People experience dental fear for many reasons. Here are some of the common sources of dental fears.

A Dominating Figure

Sources of Dental Fear

For most people, dental fear comes from a prior traumatic experience with a dentist. For people who developed this fear at a younger age, it’s often the dentist’s overbearing and intimidating manner that leads to dental fear. This early anxiety, once established, can be hard to overcome, even after building on experiences with friendly, responsive, and deferential dentists.


Many people fear the potential pain of dental procedures. Pain becomes an increasingly important cause of anxiety as the age at which the fear developed increases. In other words, people who didn’t develop dental fear as children, are more likely to develop fear related to pain as they get older.

This fear persists despite the introduction of technologies that allow us to greatly reduce or even eliminate discomfort associated with dental procedures, people worry that anesthetic won’t work for them. This is actually somewhat justified, because people with dental fear tend to be more resistant to anesthetic because of their elevated stress states.

Fear of Injection

Many people are afraid of needles, and when the needle is being pushed into a tender part of the body, such as the gums around the teeth, that fear increases significantly. Fear of needles can also extend to other sharp implements sometimes used in dental exams or treatment.

Fear of Sights, Smells, and Sounds at the Dentist

Many people develop fears that may have their origin in pain, but come to be associated with specific characteristics of the dental office. Among the most common and significant sources of dental fear is the sound of the dental drill. Having our teeth drilled is one of the most feared dental procedures, and the sound of the drill is often an important component of that fear. People may also respond to the smell of sanitizers in the operatory, or the sight of sharp implements, or the presence of tooth models in the dental office, which can seem horrific.

Feelings of Helplessness

Many people don’t like that they aren’t in control of the situation at the dentist’s office. Because they are in a helpless position, on their backs with their mouth open, while the dentist stands over them, they experience significant fear. They can’t see or know what the dentist is going to do. This fear can actually be accentuated by both anesthesia, which makes it hard for people to feel what a dentist is doing in their mouth, and sedation, which takes away people’s ability to respond to the dentist’s actions, or even, in many cases, remember what happened in the dentist’s office.

Embarrassment and Crowding

Many people are intimidated by the intimacy and closeness of the dentist during examination and treatment. People often feel the need of a bubble of space around them to feel safe from the intrusion of others, and dentists crowd into this space. Placing hands and fingers inside the mouth is an even bigger violation of this intrusion, and the presence of potential judgment in the mind of the dentist makes the intrusion even worse.

Finding the Right Solution to Your Dental Fear

If you experience dental fear, it’s important to understand the causes of your fear and find an appropriate solution. For some people, dental sedation is a good solution, but for many others NuCalm relaxation dentistry offers the best approach to getting the best treatment experience.

To learn what’s right for you, please contact a local Nucalm dentist today for an appointment.