Fear of dentists, or of dentistry in general, isn't that uncommon. In fact, a survey published in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that as many as 11 percent of adults have "dental fear," an all-out phobia of dentistry that keeps them from getting their teeth cleaned, even when they have cavities and bad breath.
But this isn't the only tooth-related fright out there. There are more than a dozen oral and dental phobias, and they can actually encourage bad breath by either preventing dental care or leading to excessive brushing or scraping.
These phobias include:
- Dentophobia. This is the above mentioned fear of dentistry, scientifically known as "dental fear."
- Odontophobia. A fear specifically of dentists. This phobia often stems from bad experiences with a former dental practitioner. In Durgesh Bailoor's and K.S. Nagesh's textbook Fundamentals of Oral Medicine and Radiology, the authors discuss the potential benefits of hypnotherapy and exposure therapy.
- Halitophobia. A fear of having (or, less commonly, simply smelling) bad breath. Moderate use of specialty breath fresheners can help ease this fear, as can cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Geumaphobia. A fear of tasting new things. In his book, An Excess of Phobias and Manias, John G. Robertson notes that the development of a condition called ageusia (the gradual inability to taste anything, which he terms "gustatory agnosia") can incidentally "knock out" this phobia. A more common, age-related condition called "anosmia" (the inability to smell) can effectively do the same.
- Honondasdontiaphobia. A fear of having one's teeth extracted or seeing them fall out. This fear is typically related to a dental injury or poor tooth-extraction experience.
- Cancerophobia. Bailoor and Nagesh note that this fear of cancer can be specific to oral carcinomas, with patients typically overusing (and constantly changing) toothpaste and mouthwash brands.