How the fear of the dentist fades

The x-rays revealed severe caries. Nine teeth of the patient had to be treated urgently – and three of them were probably beyond salvation. An extreme case? No, but more typical for the dentition of participants in a therapy study. The roughly 70 examined dental phobic had not been to the dentist on average for almost ten years. The very thought of it triggers severe discomfort, tachycardia or sweats.

Nobody likes to lie on a chair with their mouths wide open and can drill a tooth or even pull a root. Yet, most people regularly take on the widespread discomfort. More than one in ten, however, avoids the visit to the dentist out of sheer fear, the team around Jaren reported in 2006 after a representative survey of 300 inhabitants of Bochum.

A study of 1000 Britons from 2009 came to the same conclusion. Researchers led by psychologist Gerry M. Humphries of the Scottish University of St Andrews also confirmed that dental phobia affects slightly more women than men and especially younger people: people under 40 are four times more likely to be over 60 years old.

According to another investigation by Humphries and his colleagues in 2011, the unpleasant feelings are not confined to the panic fear of drill and syringe. During treatment, those affected feel helpless and ashamed – for their teeth and their anxiety. Dental phobic are usually aware that their fear is exaggerated and that most people go to the dentist without being overly affected.