Is Dental Anxiety Hereditary?

Is Dental Anxiety Hereditary?

It is estimated that up to 75 percent of American adults have some sort of fear or nervousness when visiting a dentist. Of that percentage, anywhere from five to ten percent have anxiety that can be classified as a dental phobia. With so many people suffering from some form of dental anxiety, many people wonder whether its hereditary and why others develop anxiety.

What is Dental Anxiety?

What is Dental Anxiety? Dental anxiety is a blanket term that describes any sort of anxiousness, nervousness or fear of visiting a dentist or having a dental procedure performed. Many people have some form of dental anxiety. However, they overcome their nerves or butterflies and visit a dentist routinely. For others, their phobia is so severe that they are unable to visit a dentist. Just the thought of seeing a dentist may cause them to hyperventilate.  They may not be able to walk through the door of a dental office. For these patients, sedation dentistry helps relax the person enough so they can get the dental care and treatment that they need to keep their teeth and gums healthy.

Is Dental Anxiety Hereditary?

Technically, dental anxiety is not hereditary. It is not something that a parent genetically passes on to their offspring. However, while dental anxiety is not hereditary, it does tend to run in the family. This is due to both environmental and experiential factors.

Why May Dental Anxiety Run in Families?

Why May Dental Anxiety Run in Families? There are many reasons why dental anxiety may run in families. Children pick up on the things that their parents feel anxious or nervous about. If a child sees their parent is nervous at a dental appointment, they may also feel anxious or nervous, even if they don’t understand why. They then associate a dental office with this feeling, which causes the dental anxiety to continue.

Dental anxiety travels through families because some parents are so afraid that they don’t take their child to get regular dental treatment. Parents may not speak highly of dentists and dental care, either. Introducing a child to a dentist early in life helps them realize that this is a normal and safe treatment. Routine care also helps ease fears and prevent dental anxiety. Children who do not visit a dentist until later in life tend to be more anxious about dental care. This often leads to dental anxiety or phobias well into adulthood.

What Are Some of the Other Causes of Dental Anxiety?

A parent can heavily influence anxiety in their children, but it’s not the only reason people develop dental anxiety. One of the most common reasons comes from negative experiences with a dentist at some point in life. They may have had a procedure that caused them pain or experienced a failed dental treatment that led to more treatment.

People also develop anxieties through stories from other people pertaining to specific incidents — which may not be true. Some patients exaggerate the pain associated with a root canal or say things that scare someone else. And thanks to the Internet, people research their fears, only to read horror stories that aren’t the norm. Talking to a dentist about your fears or the horror stories you have heard helps you to gain clarity and learn the truth about a treatment or procedure.


If you suffer from dental anxiety, visit a dentist with experience helping nervous, anxious, or fearful patients. Here at Dental Brothers, we offer many solutions, including sedation dentistry, to keep you comfortable and less anxious during your dental procedures. Contact us today to discuss your level of anxiety and let us help you obtain the treatment you need in a safe and judgement-free environment.