Let’s just start by saying that dental phobia is real. In some cases, it has really obvious causes (such as a traumatic childhood dentist experience); in other cases, the cause is harder to pinpoint. But it’s a real thing. Going to the dentist can trigger the same kind of terror for some people, that others might feel about spiders or heights or flying or needles or…you get the picture.

Many, if not most, people feel some reluctance about going to the dentist. Most people might even say that they feel a certain level of stress or anxiety about dental checkups. That’s common and to be expected. But for some people, this tension runs much deeper than it does for others. While it’s not really possible to completely differentiate between the usual dental qualms and what is called “dental phobia,” we want to talk about dental fear and see if we can establish some categories for thinking and communicating about your experience.

If you’re wondering whether you are feeling normal anxiety or whether you are experiencing dental phobia, here are some leading indicators from Colgate that you are experiencing worse than usual anxiety:

  • You feel tense or have trouble sleeping the night before a dental exam.
  • You get increasingly nervous while you’re in the waiting room.
  • You feel like crying when you think of going to the dentist.
  • The sight of dental instruments — or of white-coated personnel in the dentist’s office — increases your anxiety.
  • The thought of a dental visit makes you feel physically ill.
  • You panic or have trouble breathing when objects are placed in your mouth during a dental appointment.

In our next post, we’ll talk about how to overcome your dental anxiety, but the bottom line is this: if you suffer from elevated stress or terror when you think about the dentist, we’re on your side, and we want to help you find ways to manage your fears.