Study suggests that dental phobia may be hereditary

If the sound of the dental drill, smell of the dental office or mere mention of “the dentist” invokes unpleasant feelings or fear within, know that you’re not alone. In fact, Statistics Canada discovered that a staggering 40% of Canadians live with a dental fear or phobia. Does this sound like you?


Well, if you’re no stranger to dental anxiety, your fear may actually have been inherited from your parents… and not entirely from a previous traumatic experience in the chair. Weird, huh?

A study by the West Virginia University and the University of Pittsburgh and published by Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, “Toward a Genetic Understanding of Dental Fear: Evidence of Heritability”, surveyed 1,370 participants aged 11-74 to measure their dental fear and fear of pain. The data suggested that dental fear was 30% genetic among the subjects, with fear of pain being 34% genetic. So, an inherited fear of pain is likely to influence dental fear, as well… though they’re still separate factors.

A future solution?

“This information, along with a well-documented understanding of the important role of prior experiences and environment in causing dental fear, may help us develop new ways to treat dental fear and phobia,” Cameron Randall, doctoral candidate in West Virginia University’s Department of Psychology, shares.

Aside from future hope re: the treatment of dental phobia, patients suffering today shouldn’t continue to let their fear hold them back from professional care. Enough time away from the dentist can and often leads to many extensive dental problems. It’s critical that a patient seeks help if their phobia is extremely controlling and having a negative impact on their health and wellbeing.

If you’re still looking for the extra courage to finally face your dental fears, you can always contact our Hamilton dentist to discuss any ways we can help you. We’ll always do our best to provide compassionate and painless dental care to every patient. Your comfort is our priority! We offer many different sedation options at our clinic, too, which are very effective at calming patients (or sending them off to la-la land) so that they can be completely relaxed or put to “sleep” for their treatment. Give us a call!



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