Despite advances in dentistry, dental anxiety remains a problem for many. Research in the January 2013 British Dental Journal found that roughly 36 percent of the population experiences dental anxiety while 12% experience extreme dental fear. In efforts to mitigate anxiety, a new business concept — dental spas — is rapidly growing and creating a new face of dentistry.
Distinguishing fear, phobia and anxiety
While “dental fear,” “dental phobia,” and “dental anxiety” are often used interchangeably and aren’t necessarily isolated events, it is important to distinguish the terms. Fear is a reaction to a perceived threat, such as the high-pitched sound of drills at a dental office. Phobia — persistent and intense fear — in a dental setting is known as odontophobia, which can lead to “feelings of hypertension, terror, trepidation, and unease,” according to the March 2016 issue of Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dentistry. Anxiety is the emotional reaction to an unknown danger and/or before the threatening stimuli is encountered. Dental anxiety is common enough across various societies to be considered a general public health concern.
Cycle of dental anxiety
Dental anxiety is not simply an emotion that negatively affects a patient’s dental office experience. Anxiety has long-term implications that, left unchecked, can lead to a vicious cycle of dental anxiety. Patients with dental anxiety delay dental care out of fear, which causes further deterioration of oral health.
Finish reading this article in the August issue of Contour magazine.
~Jane Lee, Houston ’23