Why People Hate the Dentist: My Theory

Why People Hate the Dentist: My Theory

Scary Dentist with Real Drill
©Alan Bailey/Shutterstock.com

One of my professors told me that he has often been told, “Hey Doc, it’s nothing personal, but I hate dentists.”  This professor also shared that he thinks statements like these just come with the job.  I know of another dentist who reacts when his patients tell him that onlineusadrugstore24.com they hate dentists by asking the patient what they do for a living.  He then tells them that he hates their profession.

In my few years of experience in the dental field, I have met more than a handful of people who openly share their dislike of dentists.  My first inclination is to find out why.  Was it a bad experience when they were younger?  Have they had difficulty communicating with their dentist? Have they had procedures done without good pain control?

As a kid, I loved going to the dentist because I would always get a new toothbrush. But I know I’m in the minority, or maybe just weird — probably both.

A lot of people hate the dentist due to dental fear (for example, here’s 15 reasons why people are afraid of the dentist), but I want to dig a little deeper and discover the root cause of all the hate.

Anyway, I’ve spent a significant amount of time thinking about this and I finally have my own personal theory of why people hate the dentist.

Why People Hate the Dentist

My theory actually has two parts. I’ll cover the first part this week, and the second part next week.

According to the first part of my theory, the reason that people hate the dentist is because teeth only feel pain.

Why do so many spouses buy massages for their loved ones on Valentines day?  Because a massage is pleasant — usually people want a back massage because it makes them feel good.

Unfortunately, teeth aren’t quite the same as our backs when it comes to senses. Teeth can only sense pain.  Imagine what it would be like if people craved their dental checkup because they were going to get their teeth massaged, rather than cleaned.  What would life be like if a root canal was called a deep massage and actually felt good?  You’d probably see lines at every dental office filled with people begging to get a root canal done so that they could have a full-tooth massage.

Brushing your teeth might make your mouth feel clean, but it’s more of a necessity than a feel-good experience.  Most people would agree that the only time you really notice your teeth is when there is a problem!

Why People Hate The Dentist

Tooth Massage
“I love a good tooth massage”

The Odds Are Against Us

Many dentists try to make going to the dentist a pleasant experience, but it’s hard when your teeth are capable of only feeling pain.  People usually go to the dentist for one of two reasons.  The first is to have a routine cleaning, which is relatively painless but can be uncomfortable depending on the amount of plaque to be removed.  The second reason people go to the dentist is because they have a problem, and more often than not it is a painful problem.  Either way, if your dentist does his job well, at best you would feel no pain.  But it is impossible for a dental procedure to feel good since teeth only feel pain.  I mean, when was the last time that you said this to your dentist: “That root canal was amazing!  Is there any chance you could do that to another one of my teeth at the next appointment?”

Dentists are in the business of preventing problems (although most of that falls back on the patient) and solving problems.  Most of these problems are painful, and in addition, most of these problems require more pain (from the procedures) in order to be solved.  If only your teeth were able to feel the good things that we do for them, people might not look at dentists with so much fear!

Why Do You Think People Hate the Dentist?

I realize that most people probably don’t actually hate “the dentist” but hate the experience of going to the dentist.  I may be wrong in assuming that, but most dentists I’ve met over the years seem like pretty decent people.  So it seems that people “hate the dentist” because of all they associate with visiting their dentist.  Guilt by association, right?

Do you hate the dentist?  Do you have any other theories?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please leave a comment below and join in on the conversation.

Thanks for reading!


  1. You have perfect timing for this, as I am heading to my dentist early in the morning. Anyhow, it all comes down to anxiety from past bad experiences. When in 3rd grade, I passed out as he was filling 4 big cavities. To say the least, dentists need to listen to the parents, for they KNOW how their child will react. He didn’t stop what he was doing. When I came to, gagging reflex big time 🙁
    That also was when you really did not get injections. Small town, no injections. That’s just the way it was.

    When I moved back here 8 years ago, went to same place…new guy. Didn’t numb me enough. Pain throughout the whole thing. It seems to just never end.

    So, for me, it’s not the dentist. I really like him, and we’re both avid readers (something in common). I just hate getting anything done…the pain!

    We’ll see how it goes in the morning :~

    • Hi Cris – Wow, I’m amazed that the dentist kept working after you’d passed out. The pain is a big problem – if only teeth could feel the good things we do! Thanks for sharing your experience, Cris!

      • just an update. the appt on Friday went good. once I told him of being anxious, he did awesome with that. he has a sense of humor and brought that in. helped calm me down. there was no pain. i just felt when the injection fluid was going in (which I know is normal). what it comes down to, don’t be afraid to tell you dentist how you feel…even if you feel as if you’re dumb to be feeling that way. they will work with you if they are good. that’s my advise of the day 🙂

  2. It’s amazing how often I have heard the phrase, “Nothing personal, but I really hate the dentist.” It is part of the job, but when patients are honest about their anxiety it gives us an opportunity to put them at ease. Many patients seem to avoid the dentist due to fear that they will be judged for bad dental hygiene habits, much like many patients avoid the doctor for fear of having to step on the scale.

  3. Personally I don’t hate the Dentist. What I hate is the waiting on x-rays and sometimes the non communication you sometimes receive. I feel like if you suspect a problem, I want to be told then, not 30 minutes later after I have thought about the worst. For example: I had a filling on a tooth and later on a couple of months it became loose. I told then dentist and after a scary wait time, he told me he didn’t know what he was going to do till he got in. Could be a root canal or a crown. I personally cried every night for two weeks! Because of the possibility since I never had anything drastic but wisdom teeth extraction. Needless to say he crowned it after I had to have laughing gas. I found a new dentist after that episode.

  4. I don’t really like the dentist since it’s often painful, expensive and often mostly a negative experience. It’s one of those things I know I have to do, so I do it, though there was a period of time in college and some years after where I didn’t go since I had no insurance, little money and no regular dentist that I trusted. I wish I had gone then since my mouth would be in better shape now if I’d been more careful–though it could be worse.

    Currently, I don’t really like my dentist much even though I’ve been through a lot with her since I started going to her when she was only a few years out of dental school. She’s friendly-ish, but it seems like she’s mostly interested in the money and isn’t very interested in what she’s doing. I get it if she’s bored. I would be, too, but I only have one set of teeth and she just doesn’t seem to be too careful anymore. She started out a bit unsure of some stuff, but at least she was careful, but now she just seems not to take anything too seriously and blows off everything or doesn’t listen and maybe it hasn’t been really disastrous, but not great either.

    Examples of problems I’ve had:

    – endless badgering to get InvisAlign, mostly from dental assistants–I felt like I’d entered the used car salesroom. They asserted my teeth would last much longer if I got it even though they weren’t extremely bad and I’d had orthodontics as a kid. I asked for evidence that the $6,000 would be worth the time and money in the long run. Ya know like peer reviewed, medical journal kind of stuff that uses this new-fangled thing called “the scientific method.” I mean, not just making something up because you want to bill more. So show me the research that’s says teeth last longer after being straightened for minor problems. She never does.

    – after being badgered for years, I finally dropped the dough on InvisAlign hoping it would be worth it for getting my teeth to last longer. So I pay like 2 months salary for this crap and she probably spends about three hours of her time over about 5 months. I think it helped a little bit, but . . . worth the money? I’m not so sure.

    – when I get done with InvisAlign, she says “let me adjust your bite.” The back molars on my right side would touch when I bit down but the molars on my left side didn’t touch very much because of different heights. She then goes and grinds down the right side–excessively–so now the left side touches when I bite down much more than the right. WTF! Not only that, but my canine on the right and some front teeth are now clashing because they hit each other long before the molars ever touch now because she ground so much off my back molars on that side. I’m now afraid to say anything about any of my bite since I don’t want her crazily grinding anything else on my teeth or ruining my bite any more than she’s already done and every step she takes is just making things worse. Seriously, maybe she could be a little careful for $6,000 and like 3 hours or less in her stupid chair. C’Mon, this is someone’s mouth, their body, you’re screwing around with. If you can’t proceed with care then find a new profession. She’s just going to keep grinding until my teeth are little nubs?

    -A dental assistant takes molds for my retainer and he’s about 23 and seems like he’s really bored. my retainer is not a good fit on the upper left back molars when it comes back and it basically wobbles back there and doesn’t fit right. my dentist asks if it fits,I say, “not really, it wobbles and is just flopping around back there and it’s not snug at all.” She says, “try it for a while and you can call if you still think there is a problem after a while.” What part of “it doesn’t fit right didn’t she understand?” So she asked so that she could just ignore me? WTF, again?

    So . . . I’m learning to hate my dentist who isn’t careful, ignores anything I say, and is just going to do any crazy thing she wants and charge me a crapload of money.

    Seriously, I think I need a new dentist since I’ve had it with her. I wish I had a better dentist instead of the recent horror show experiences. I wish I knew an actually good dentist here.

  5. For me it’s very simple. I hate dentists because I’ve had crappy treatment, several instances of malpractice, grinding of teeth done against my will and in 2 instances with out my knowledge.
    I was lucky to escape a dentist extracting a perfectly healthy tooth as she wanted to do because I ha d a bit of pain in my gum which was only due to diet.
    One dentist years ago did a filling which dropped out after 2 hours. I rang him immediately and he said “Oh well”. Did not offer a refund or another appointment.
    I had one dentist go psycho on me because I complained about his precious secretary gave me a practitioner who did not know anything about the type of dentistry I had specifically requested.
    It was only after a lot of arguing and me pointing out he was not living up to the promises on his website that he gave me a refund and then banned me from the practice.
    My current dentist is very nice but did not listen to my request for protective measures for my teeth between procedures and my teeth chipped and broke because of the stress they were under, – AFTER which he decided I needed a splint! etc.

    I’ve had excellent dentistry in the past. But the last few years dentists have ignored me, patronised me, wrecked my teeth, violated my informed consent and shown a completely moronic approach to oral care and clients – me!- that shows me they know nothing about the profession they’ve entered.
    Several I would sack without hesitation.

  6. Don’t bother theorising about why people hate the dentist.

    ASK them! They’ll tell you, you don’t need to guess!!

  7. Very simple. I hate dentists who have damaged my teeth very severely.

    I used to have dentists who understood dentistry and that they were there to fix teeth.

    In the last few years, however, the dentists I have been to have destroyed several perfectly healthy teeth, the ones I went to get the destroyed teeth fixed did miserable inadequate patch jobs that broke – constantly – put in fillings that broke, DID NOT fix the damaged teeth, and caused collateral damage to adjoining teeth such that I have more teeth damaged by idiot morons who don’t understand dentistry and have more teeth damaged now than I did several years ago.
    THAT’s why I hate dentists! The ones I’ve seen in the last few years should be in jail. They don’t deserve the privilege of being in practice.
    Some people should not be in their jobs, end of story.

    Oddly enough, a dentist I went to when I was young hated being a dentist. I did not like him because he was rough but apart from that was actually a pretty good dentist – his fillings were quite well done, moulded to the tooth shape – unlike today where they cut teeth to fit the too-low fillings which degrade quickly – and lasted a long time. Go figure.

  8. I don’t like the experience of having my mouth examined. I am afraid they will find a problem then based on my previous bad experiences of questionable treatment I will have to decide whether to trust the guy or not. Even with something like broken teeth, I find out later maybe I didn’t need all those crowns. It’s worse than buying a car. It’s not the expense so much as the fear of making the wrong decision which boils down to not trusting the dentist due to previous bad experiences. Also, I hate the prying conversation. I don’t want to talk about my family. That is actually stressful for me.

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