If you dread going to the dentist, you’re not alone—up to 20% of Americans feel the same way.1

However, good oral health is critical to your overall health now and in the future. Let’s take a look some causes of dental phobia, also known as dentophobia, and ways to cope with the fear.

Common dental phobias and ways to cope

The Dentist

A commonly feared professional, dentists can be thought of as cold, insensitive or cruel.2

How to cope—Ask family, friends or coworkers if they have a dentist to recommend. If someone you know trusts a dentist, it could ease your fears. Before your appointment, ask to meet the dentist first. This gives you an opportunity to explain your fears and the dentist a chance to assure you that you’ll be in good hands.


Although modern technology has made some procedures less painful or pain free, some people may have sensitive mouths or fear the pain will be severe.

How to cope—The idea of dental pain is often much worse than the pain itself. If your fear comes from a bad experience from the past, remember that modern dental practices are more advanced now. Medications and techniques such as anesthetics, numbing gels and laser drills can reduce or eliminate any pain during most procedures.

Numbness or gagging

People who have experienced choking or difficulty breathing may fear getting their mouth numbed.

How to cope—If your dentist recommends an anesthetic for a procedure, explain your concerns beforehand. They may suggest mild numbing to see how you feel. Also, most anesthetics used in dentistry only affect the sensory nerves, not motor nerves used for movement and swallowing. Be sure to ask your dentist for the details of any anesthetic they recommend so you feel comfortable.


People with a fear of needles (trypanophobia) can be extremely afraid of the injection used to numb the mouth.

How to cope—Nowadays, most dentists use a topical solution to numb the area where the needle will be inserted. This way, you’ll only feel a little pressure instead of pain. If your dentist recommends anesthesia and you want to avoid needles altogether, you may have the option of inhaling gases or vapors delivered by a mask or breathing tube.


Some people may feel self-conscious about the condition of their teeth, gums or mouth odor.

How to cope—Dentists have seen it all. If you think you have bad breath or gum disease, your dentist will want to help make it better. They won’t judge you for coming in—they’ll be proud of you and help you feel relaxed during your appointment.

Loss of personal space

The physical closeness of the dentist can be uncomfortable for some people.3

How to cope—Dentists need to be close to do their jobs correctly, but there is one good way to empower yourself: hand signals. When you start to feel uncomfortable, use a signal (e.g., stop). This way the dentist knows to stop working and give you space. When you’re ready for them to return, you can use another signal (e.g., thumbs up).

Learn about dental plans with Humana

If you need dental insurance, Humana can help. We offer a broad range of dental plans with varying levels of coverage, many with affordable monthly premiums. Some of our plans also feature no waiting periods, which means you could get covered in about 5 days. To see plans and prices in your area, check out our Humana dental insurance page.

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  1. “Easing Dental Fear in Adults,” WebMD, last accessed September 24, 2021, https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/easing-dental-fear-adults.
  2. “Why the Fear of Dentists Is so Common,” Verywell Mind, last accessed September 24, 2021, https://www.verywellmind.com/dentophobia-fear-of-dentists-2671855#citation-1.
  3. “Easing Dental Fear in Adults.”