Lights, Camera, Anxiety: Debunking Dental Fears Portrayed in Media


Dentists often get an unfair shake when it comes to how they’re portrayed in media. Often they’re written in an abusive or unhinged way that preys on rumors that are holdovers from earlier times. 36 percent of the world’s population live with dental anxiety. It has become so common that many dentists now offer sedation dentistry as an option.

If you want to see some examples of these dentists and learn how the truth is much better than the fiction, continue reading.

Examples of Bad Dentists from Movies

While this is not by any means an exhaustive list, it provides a good sample of some of the hundreds of depictions of dental professionals.

Dr. Christian Szell in “Marathon Man”

Played by Laurence Olivier, Dr. Szell is a former Nazi dentist who infamously uses dental instruments to torture the protagonist, Thomas Babington “Babe” Levy.

Dr. Feinstone in “The Dentist”

Corbin Bernsen plays Dr. Feinstone, a successful and seemingly normal dentist who descends into madness, using his dental skills in gruesome ways.

Dr. Phibes in “The Abominable Dr. Phibes”

Though not a dentist, Vincent Price plays Dr. Anton Phibes, a character who seeks vengeance in unique and macabre ways, including a scene involving a rat and a dentist.

Orin Scrivello in “Little Shop of Horrors”

Steve Martin’s character, Orin Scrivello, is a sadistic and abusive dentist who enjoys inflicting pain on his patients. In one famous scene, he loses his enthusiasm for performing a ghastly treatment when Bill Murray’s character starts enjoying the pain.

The Truth About Dentists

Dentists are allies in your battle with dental issues. There isn’t a single reputable dentist in the world who enjoys inflicting pain. In fact, most dentists are very kind and gentle people who want to help alleviate any discomfort you may feel.

As an experiment, try going to a few websites for dentists in your area. Look for their “bio” or “about” page. You may find that they all have very similar outlooks on what a dentist should do, and why they chose to become one. It all comes back to their desire to help people.

How to Cope with Dental Anxiety

If you have dental anxiety, there are a few things you can do to cope:

  • Communicate Often and Effectively with Your Dentist – The more they know about your anxiety and what specifically makes you afraid, the easier they can make you feel comfortable.
  • Ask for Sedation Dentistry – There are a few options available for sedation dentistry that use sedatives to slow your heart rate and dull your perception to help you relax. This could include nitrous oxide (laughing gas), or oral conscious sedation (a moderate sedative taken in pill form).
  • Wear Headphones or Practice Mindfulness – If you don’t like the sights or sounds in a dentist’s office, try to wear earbuds or do breathing exercises to calm yourself down before your appointment.

Remember, your dentist wants to help you succeed in your treatment. Give them some trust, and they’ll repay you with a perfect smile. Schedule an appointment and you’ll soon see that dentists are some of the kindest people you’ll ever meet.

About the Practice

Dr. Grant D. Ringler and Dr. Justin L. Barnhart form a dynamic and experienced team at Grant D. Ringler, DDS. They are dedicated to cultivating patient care excellence and creating an anxiety-free environment for everyone. They understand that the only way forward in your treatment is with trust and respect for your goals. To schedule an appointment, call (620) 708-4045 or visit the website to learn more about sedation dentistry.