Fear of Needles & Dental Phobia

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Arguably one of the most common reasons behind dental phobia is a fear of needles. Indeed a fear of needles is a common cause for all kinds of medical-related phobias.


Needles don’t look particularly pleasant, which isn’t a surprise considering that they are long, thin, and sharp objects used to pierce your skin. While most needles don’t actually cause much pain beyond a slight stinging, they are still the target of widespread medical phobia. People of all ages can suffer from a fear of needles, and find it difficult to attend or arrange appointments where they know they will have to have a needle injected.

Needles are used in dentistry to apply a local anaesthetic (a numbing agent that blocks pain signals) by injecting the chemical into your gums around the site that is to be treated. The use of anaesthetic is widespread as it spares patients the unpleasantness of enduring a dental procedure that can otherwise be barbarically painful.

What is needle phobia?

Needle phobia is also known as Aichmophobia, which literally means ‘the fear of needles and treatments involving needles’. Many people suffer from this fear to some extent, whether as a mild dislike of needles or an intense phobia that causes them to avoid medical treatment. For many people who suffer from a needle fear, a trip to the dentist is something to be avoided in case of injections. 

Many people who are afraid of needles will have had an unpleasant experience at some point in their past. Dental students are trained to apply needles by practicing on one another, and it has been noted that while their initial attempts are painless, their technique becomes more and more sloppy and painful. This is thought to be a consequence of long years of practice and a loss of empathy as a dentist sees patient after patient and becomes desensitised. The solution to this is to find a dentist who still sympathises with their patients and is able to bring that empathy into their practice.

Applying the injection correctly is key to maintaining both comfort and painlessness. The injection must be applied gently and slowly to minimise pain, and some parts of the mouth will need to be held taught for an injection to be applied. Using a finger to apply pressure to the site of injection or to rub it is generally good practice in that it limits any feelings of pain. Similarly a topical gel which numbs the area can be applied to ease the pain of injection. The most common cause of injection pain, which can then lead to needle phobia, is thought to be injecting the anaesthetic too fast. The result of this can be damage to tissue in the mouth, causing pain and soreness.

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Guide to Dental Phobia