One of the most universal experiences we have as children is going to the dentist. It is so ubiquitous that children’s shows and movies alike address the experience and potential fears related to visiting a dentist. From Little Shop of Horrors to Rugrats, there’re many representations of dentists that cover all levels of dental fear and anxiety.

A new study indicates that these fears are not only valid, but increase as we get older.

The two-year study of 160 children, aged 7 to 9 years old, found that dental fear and anxiety (DFA) increased greatly over time.

The study logged different aspects of dental health and procedures, including gingivitis, plaque, extractions and filled teeth for both primary (baby) and permanent (adult) teeth.

A young child covers her mouth in fear at the dentists office. It’s not surprising that as adults, we carry the fear and anxiety developed as children. The trauma is difficult to forget and, as most of us only visit the dentist once a year (and more than a third of us not even that!), easy to exaggerate in our minds. 

The study examined 15 factors, with the hypothesis that as children experienced more dental treatments, their fear increased. The study asked children if they feared:

  • Nurse cleaning teeth
  • White uniforms
  • Going to the hospital
  • Choking
  • Instruments in the mouth
  • Noise of dentist drilling
  • Sight of dentist drilling
  • Dentist drilling
  • Somebody looking at you
  • Stranger touching you
  • Open mouth
  • Examine mouth
  • Injections
  • Doctors
  • Dentist

They found that children’s DFA increased not just with age, but also with new experiences, such as toothaches or extractions.

The biggest increase of DFA appeared to stem from the “Dentist drilling” and the highest DFA factor appeared to be “Injections”. The study notes that the fear of injections could also stem from vaccine injections, separate from dental experiences.

From Children to Adults, the Fear Is Real

It’s not surprising that as adults, we carry the fear and anxiety developed as children. The trauma is difficult to forget and, as most of us only visit the dentist once a year (and more than a third of us not even that!), easy to exaggerate in our minds.

Sometimes, we even just latch onto certain stimuli, such as the sound of the drill, and it’s enough to scare many adults away from any form of dental care. This fear can also lead to ill-fated self-treatment or do-it-yourself dentistry which can be more dangerous in the long run.

Does Fear Stop You from Going to the Dentist?

If you are among the majority of patients who experience some degree of dental fear and anxiety, we can help. With several options in sedation dentistry and relaxation dentistry, City Smiles can help every patient get the smile they deserve.

St. Louis dentist Dr. Hill and his dedicated care team offer three options in sedation dentistry. Concerned about using medication? City Smiles even has an option for you, drug-free relaxation dentistry with NuCalm.

Ready to get the stress-free smile you deserve? Book an appointment with us today at our office in downtown St. Louis or Clayton, MO. You can give us a call at (314) 375-5353 or (314) 678-7876, or send us an email.