Dentophobia: A Dentist Explains How To Deal With The Fear

Girl smiling despite her dentophobia

Our oral health is extremely important, yet there is a very common fear that sometimes keeps people away from the dentist. It’s called dentophobia, and it is defined as an extreme fear of going to the dentist. Whilst this fear is not to be made light of, it should not hold you back from attending checkups and cleanings, but overcoming the fear is not always straightforward.

Fear or phobia?

Fears and phobias are not quite the same; a fear can cause avoidance, but you won’t usually think about it until you are faced with the thing you fear. A phobia is more extreme and is actually considered an anxiety disorder that can cause extreme distress and interfere with day-to-day life.

If you have a fear of going to the dentist, this is likely something you could put to one side in order to do what needs to be done. But a phobia could mean that even the thought of the dentist might cause nightmares and panic attacks. In either case, the causes and ways to overcome them are often similar.

How to deal with the fear

A mild fear of the dentist is best remedied by simply biting the bullet and going for it. You can tell your dentist that you are nervous – at Tomaree Dentistry, we understand that attending a dental appointment can be unsettling. We will do all we can to make you feel comfortable.

If your fear is more severe, or a true phobia, there are some options you may consider:

  • Exposure therapy: this is a form of psychotherapy that involves taking baby steps towards seeing the dentist. You could start by walking into the dentist’s office without having any treatment, instead having a brief talk with your dentist, then add things to subsequent visits like X-rays, partial exams and cleanings. Eventually, you will be ready for a full appointment.
  • Medication: no medication will treat the phobia directly, but some anti-anxiety meds could alleviate your symptoms.

Staying calm

Whether you’re facing the fear head-on or getting ready for exposure therapy, here are some
things to keep in mind to stay as calm as possible:

  • Try not to visit during the busiest times, such as mid morning and mid afternoon. Earlier in the morning, there are often fewer patients and less time for your anticipation to build up.
  • Noise-cancelling headphones can enable you to listen to relaxing music and block out any noises whilst you are in the waiting room.
  • It may be helpful to have a friend or family member accompany you to your appointment.
  • Meditation techniques like deep breathing are known to be effective in controlling anxiety.

It is okay if you need a break during your visit. Consider establishing a signal you can give your dentist to alert them that you need a time out.

Choose the right dentist

Empathy and compassion are important qualities for dentists, as fear of the dentist is so common. At Tomaree Dentistry, we emphasise a gentle approach and always aim to take good care of patients who are nervous.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions. It may help you feel reassured about our approach to nervous patients like yourself. You are always free to be open about your worries and the reasons for them – we will take your concerns seriously and go the extra mile to accommodate your needs.


Dentist Dr John Cropley

Dr John Cropley

John is the principal dentist at Tomaree Dentistry in Nelson Bay. He graduated in Dentistry from the University of Adelaide and is a long-standing member of the Australian Dental Association (ADA). He is known for his gentle, calm and caring manner and offers services in prevention-based dentistry, emergency care, cosmetic dentistry and restorative dentistry including endodontics.


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Nelson Bay, NSW 2315
(02) 4981 3114
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