Dental anxiety is a highly prevalent condition affecting approximately 30% of the population. Dental anxiety can be distinguished from dental fear and phobia by the way our mind and body react.
Dental fear is an individual’s emotional response to a perceived threat or danger. It includes negative thoughts and physiological changes such as increased heart rate, sweaty palms, shaking, shortness of breath or a tight sensation in the throat.
Dental anxiety is better defined as the response to situations in which the source of the threat to the individual is ill-defined, ambiguous or not immediately present. Anticipatory anxiety prior to dental procedures is commonly experienced.
Dental phobia is a more extreme example of dental anxiety. Phobia is defined as a marked and persistent fear of a clearly defined object or situation. Exposure to the phobic stimulus provokes an immediate anxiety response. Typically the individual will actively avoid the object or situation resulting insignificant distress and interference with a person’s ability to function.