Dental Anxiety: Nature or Nurture? (Advertorial blog)

Back April 19th, 2021

There are a ton of different reasons as to why you might be afraid of the dentist. You might look back at an individual negative experience and recognise that as your trigger. Or maybe you can’t recall a time when you weren’t anxious about the dentist.

We understand how hard it can be to visit the dentist when you’re terrified of attending your appointment. However, it’s essential for you to regularly attend your dental appointments to have the best oral health possible.

There are a few misconceptions about being afraid of the dentist. If you have a parent who suffers from dental anxiety, there’s no evidence to prove you would genetically inherit that fear.

Here’s a more in-depth look at how you might’ve developed your fear of the dentist over time.

Fear of The Dentist as a Child

Our brains generalise and simplify experiences we have as children. For example, if a child doesn’t like the flavour of ice cream the first time they try it, they’ll be reluctant to eat ice cream again regardless of the taste.

The same applies to healthcare experiences, like dental appointments. “If a child has an overwhelmingly negative experience at the dentist, it’s tough to convince that child that a trip to the dentist is good for them,” Says Dr Kailesh Solanki.

It’s also more likely that those children will grow up to become dental phobic adults and are therefore more likely to suffer from oral diseases and poor oral hygiene.

Fear of The Dentist in Adults

Numerous studies have suggested that it’s nurture and not nature that causes negativity towards dental work. Statistics show that up to 50% of UK adults experience anxiety during their experience at the dentist.

Up to 8% of people can identify a traumatic experience from childhood as the root of their negative feelings.

But what if it wasn’t something in your childhood that caused your anxiety? Must you’ve been born with it? No.

Feeling Comfortable at the Dentist

Humans in new or unusual surroundings are programmed to be on guard. No matter how relaxed you think you feel. The reality is that if you’re not familiar with your surroundings, your senses are subconsciously on high alert.

For most of us, being in the dentist’s chair isn’t a regular occurrence and isn’t somewhere that we’re comfortable with. After all, dental clinics aren’t designed to be homely.

This means your senses of smell, hearing, sight, touch, and even taste are all working overtime when you’re in the dentist’s chair.

As a result, the sound of the drill, smell of the chemicals, sight of the equipment, feel of the tools and even the taste of the mouthwash are amplified. This can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious.

Those more severely affected can experience their fight or flight mechanism kick in, making it even harder to return for their next appointment.

So, all the evidence points to dental phobia being nurture and not nature. Although it may not seem so, that’s a good thing. It means that your fear is reversible, and you can visit the dentist fear-free with the correct dentist.

This is a paid-for, advertorial blog submitted by an individual or business whose website, products, services and associations are independent of, and not directly endorsed by Anxiety UK. The views expressed by the contributor are not necessarily those of Anxiety UK, nor can we guarantee the accuracy of the information provided. If you would like to feature an advertorial blog with Anxiety UK please email blog@anxietyuk.org.uk  for more information