May 01, 2018 Healthy Living

Fear Factor – Fear of the Dentist

Look at your to-do list on a specific day. Visiting the dentist may not be at, near, or anywhere close to the top of that list. For some people, it ranks right below wrestling an angry alligator and right above sitting in a traffic jam for five straight hours on the Thruway.

One reason you might run the other way from the dentist’s office is fear. You might be afraid that you’ll be in pain while your dentist examines or fixes your teeth. You might be worried about what your dentist will find once the exam begins. The idea of the experience at the office may make you nervous, anxious, or even a little terrified.

In some cases, you may not even go to the dentist because of a bad experience that you or someone else had.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways your fears (and the fears of your kids) can be eased before you make that all-important trip to the dentist.

Fear of Pain

It’s important to keep in mind that communication is key. Even before you schedule an appointment or arrive at the office, talk with your dentist and let them know that you or your child are worried about being in pain before or after your visit. Once it’s time for your appointment, mention these concerns again, especially if you still aren’t sure that the visit won’t be painful. Remember, most dental procedures today should cause you no or very little pain. By having a conversation with your dentist, they can find ways to help you feel more comfortable during your appointment.

You may not even be familiar with the ways your dentist can help you feel more comfortable. Remember, your dentist is there to help, and by sharing your concerns, your dentist can work to make sure you feel better about your visit, and other appointments in the future.

It’s easy to forget your fear of experiencing pain at the dentist when everything else is going well. One way to make sure you don’t make that fear a reality is to go to regular appointments. By putting off visits to the dentist, you could wind up with a more serious problem, or even a visit to the emergency room to relieve your pain. And, after that visit, you will have to go back to the dentist for a long-term solution to the problem. Regular visits (twice a year) can help you avoid those emergencies, where pain is the first thing on your mind.

Fear of Noise

Believe it or not, this is a more common fear than you think. Even staff at CDPHP, who help educate members on the importance of seeing your dentist on a regular basis, are afraid of the noises that come from the instruments your dentist will use to clean and repair your teeth.

Here’s one story that was shared for this blog:

It always happens when I go to the dentist. I can hear the sound of the drill in my head. I know how important it is to go on a regular basis, but sometimes, when I hear that drill, or another tool being used, I just want to walk out the door.

I finally talked to my dentist about this, and she suggested that I listen to music during my appointment. I didn’t know if it would work, but it did help to keep me calm during an exam. I started breathing easier, I felt more relaxed, and it was a better experience overall.

Again, communication is key. It is important that you let your dentist know that those sounds from the instruments they use make you uncomfortable, so that they are aware and can help ease your fears. A simple step, such as listening to music during your appointment, can keep those fears from popping up at your appointment.

Fear From a Young Age

I can speak from experience in this section. I had a couple of pretty good dentists as a kid, but my experiences were not great. It always seemed like I had the worst luck at the dentist, from cavities to an overly-sensitive reflex to any gauze or instrument the dentist would place in my mouth during the appointment.

I realized that the fear I had about the dentist started when I was young. I always expected the worst outcomes, but then I made sure I started telling my dentist about my concerns. I’ve been able to get over some of those fears over the years, but I still remind my dentist that I always fear the worst, that I’m going to need tens of thousands of dollars of work, and that I’ll be at the dentist once a week for the rest of my life.

It’s important to remember that a child’s first experiences with the dentist can be crucial to keeping their teeth healthy throughout their lives. One way to start on the right path is to take your child to the dentist at an early age, even for a preventive exam to make sure their teeth are coming in the right way, and that their mouth looks healthy. If you start with a positive visit, your child will be better off in the end.

Another important thing to remember is the negative impression your child will have of the dentist, if you have the same impression. When you come home from the dentist, or talk about an appointment, avoid discussing anything related to pain, and don’t use words like “drill” or “shot.” If they hear a negative story about the dentist from a friend at school, be sure to stress the importance of regular visits, and how it will keep their teeth healthy and clean.

Take the First Step

Putting off a visit to the dentist can be simple to do. If you do put it off, you’re not alone. Statistics from the New York State Department of Health show about 30% of adults in New York haven’t had a dentist appointment in the past year.

Even if you haven’t gone to the dentist in years, taking the first step, and overcoming your fears, can be a big help to keep you and your kids healthy. If you are a CDPHP member who needs help scheduling an appointment with a new dentist, call the member services number on your member ID card, and ask about routine and preventive dental services that are covered as part of your plan. You can also visit to find a dentist near you.

Gregory Fry
About the Author

Greg joined CDPHP® in February 2018 as a communications specialist. Originally from Philadelphia, Greg moved to upstate New York in 2007, and married his wife, Julia, in 2013. For 12 years, Greg worked in radio and print journalism roles, and has received multiple state and regional broadcasting awards for his role as an on-air anchor, and for his coverage of breaking news. Greg also brings a background in working with nonprofit organizations, having served in various marketing and fundraising roles in the Finger Lakes.

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