What Causes a Fear of Dentists?

Posted on: March 19, 2014 | Blog

Do you dread going to the dentist? Do you put off check-ups for as long as possible? You’re not alone. According to one estimate by Dental Fears Research Clinic Director Peter Milgrom, between five to eight percent of Americans avoid the dentist out of fear and serious anxiety. It is also estimated that 20 percent of Americans wait until they are in extreme discomfort before setting foot in a dentist’s office. Targeting the root cause of a fear is often the first step to treating it. Here are three common underlying reasons that millions of people fear the dentist.

frightened woman

1. A past traumatic dentist visit

According to Milgrom, whose dentistry practice specializes in treating fearful patients, roughly two-thirds of patients connect their fear to a negative past experience at the dentist. This may be rooted in a profoundly painful experience from a rare dental mishap. But most often it’s because their dentist didn’t recognize they had a different threshold of pain and failed to check in before proceeding with a procedure, resulting in unexpected pain.

2. A more generalized anxiety disorder or non-dentist related traumatic experience

A third of Milogram’s patients associated their fear of the dentist to anxiety that was either generalized (meaning they are often naturally anxious) or tied to post traumatic stress related to childhood abuse, domestic violence or for many veterans, war. A fear of the dentist simply developed as a side effect of these conditions.

3. Fear of lack of control

According to psychologist Ellen Rondine, who has studied dental fears, fear of visiting the dentist is often tied to lack of control in the dentist chair rather than pain itself.



Whatever the cause, oftentimes the most difficult part of overcoming a fear of the dentist is taking the first step. Overcoming your fears can be as simple as finding the right dentist. If you live in the Las Vegas area, and would like to know more about dentists who understand patient anxiety, contact BDG at (702) 388-8888 today.

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Main photo courtesy of Vera Kratochvil