The Dentist: What’s The Fuss About?

This morning I went to visit the dentist. To many of you, this may not be a very interesting statement, because after all everyone goes to their dentist’s twice a year and have done so since they were very young. Despite this, I feel the need to explore something I’ve always been intrigued by when it comes to visiting this place of oral hygiene. It is called odontophobia which refers to the “fear of dentists.”

A “real life” dentist visit By Erik Christensen, via Wikimedia Commons

I had my first filling today and, if I’m totally honest, other than the little hoover sucking at my mouth and drying it out, I found the experience rather enjoyable. My mouth was numbed and completely free of pain by the anaesthetics which made all the drilling and probing a very unusual experience. Despite having two people with masks and goggles on sticking tubes, mirrors, drills and all manner of other gadgets into my mouth, the experience was more funny than uncomfortable (especially when I had Walking on Sunshine By Karina and the Waves running round my head throughout the whole procedure).

Judging by this, I’m either a really brave and butch guy who has an abnormal threshold to pain – which is, let’s face it, very unlikely – or odontophobia is purely psychological. I understand that as phobias go, it isn’t the most unusual one (aulophobia refers to the fear of flutes and linonophobia is the fear of string) but still I find it remarkable that so many people seem to have an in built fear of visiting their dentist. For a very long time I assumed that this was because fillings and dental surgery were terrible ordeals full of pain, agony and anguish… but where that came from I really don’t know!

Maybe we already knew this anyway, but what I find most unusual is that there must have been some fear passed down over the generations in order for anyone to have a logical fear of dentists. This I can understand, because after all, during the 19th century the dentists weren’t quite as kind when it came to drilling into your mouth. Not only would you be in an ampitheatre in which dental students would be watching the precedure but the only painkiller you’d be offered was a good old fashioned swig of grog! Still, by the 20th century, most visits to the dentists weren’t too painful, anaesthetics were in widespread use (and had been since the mid 1800s if my parents are to be believed) and even by the 1950s dental care was amazingly advanced (local anaesthetics had been developed by then). Therefore, the myth of dentists “hurting” you can’t exactly be explained by this!

The only possible conclusion I can come to is that somewhere along the line, parents were to blame. Parents,  being the machiavellian people they are, seem to indoctrinate us with numerous irrational fears in order to coerce us into being good. These phrases are commonplace: “If you don’t go to bed now Santa won’t come” and “if you keep making faces like that it will stay that way” and so on. Perhaps the dentists is the same: “Fillings really hurt! make sure you brush your teeth!!” … So there you have it. You’re welcome to blame years of mental anguish and nerves, when visiting dentists, on those lovely people who brought you up.

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About the author

Harry Parkhill

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I am the Editor for the Evans Review. I have previous experience working as a writer and editor for dozens of publications, including The Daily Telegraph, MSN, the Editorial section of (now defunct) LOVEFiLM, Kettle Mag and Journalism-Now Politically right of centre.