Dental fear is the fear of dentistry and of receiving dental care. It is estimated that as many as 75% of US adults experience some degree of dental fear, from mild to severe.
Many dentally fearful people will only seek dental care when they have a dental emergency, such as a toothache or dental abscess.
People who are very fearful of dental care often experience a "cycle of avoidance," in which they avoid dental care due to fear until they experience a dental emergency requiring invasive treatment, which can reinforce their fear of dentistry.
Women tend to report more dental fear than men, and younger people tend to report being more dentally fearful than older individuals.
People tend to report being more fearful of more invasive procedures, such as oral surgery, than they are of less invasive treatment, such as professional dental cleanings, or prophylaxis.