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Dr. Edwards' Blog

Fear of the dentist may be inherited -- October 24, 2016

Many of you know that anxious feeling you have when you feel you're getting a cavity -- You have to go to the dentist!  

Dental fear isn't all that uncommon.  In fact, about 85% of adults have some form of dental anxiety.  About 10-20% have what's called "dental phobia," where they delay treatment or avoid it altogether.  That has consequences on their oral and overall health.

But why do so many people dread going to the dentist?  That's the question psychology researchers at the West Virginia University worked to answer. Their research shows dental care-related fear and anxiety is due, in part, to genetic influences inherited from your parents. The study is one of the first to suggest that genetics, in addition to environmental factors, can be a basis for patients fearing dental treatment.  

"The most important conclusion of this study is that our genes may predispose us to be more susceptible to developing dental fear, perhaps through pain-related variables," Researcher Cameron Randall said.

The study demonstrates that fear of pain, a problem related to but separate from dental fear, is heritable, too. The authors found that some of the genes that influence fear of pain likely also influence dental fear. This finding provides new information that clarifies how fear of pain may contribute to the development of dental fear.


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