Dental Research

Is fear of the dentist hereditary?

January 26, 2017

It’s not uncommon for patients to experience some anxiety in the dental chair, and many of our Denticon users go to great lengths to put their patients at ease when they come in for a visit.

A team of researchers at West Virginia University has been working on identifying the root causes for that anxiety. They recently made some headway in their work.

As explained in a Science Daily article, the team at WVU found evidence suggesting that one’s predisposition to fear the dentist may be—in part—genetic. More precisely, they found that fear of pain, which can be tied to hereditary traits, maps closely to fear of dental treatment. And this ingrained fear of pain, along with environmental factors, can be a big contributor to dental chair anxiety.

Approximately 10 to 20 percent of adults in the U.S. express a fear of the dentist. Some experience overwhelming anxiety, which causes them to delay or skip dental treatment altogether. Since oral health has a direct impact on overall health, that avoidance can present big health risks in the long run.

If fear of the dentist is hereditary, how can dental practices put their patients at ease? They probably can’t do anything about a patient’s genes, but they can certainly focus on the environmental factors that do play a role—the office, the staff, the dentist, and all of the individual interactions that make up a patient’s overall impression of a dental visit.