Finding Nemo is one such example where this is enforced, and broadcasted to a junior audience, who are particularly susceptible to developing phobias. Nemo’s kidnapper was a daunting dentist, whose patients were always screaming and writhing in the chair. The fish’ main aim was to escape from their dental environment, which could be seen as a metaphor for the patients wishes to also escape from the dentist. In this way, it is implied to the young audience that being away from the dentist is more favourable as opposed to being closer. These stereotypes can be continued into adulthood, paving the way for a phobic avoidance of dentists to occur.
But where did the initial fear of dentists orginate from for the media to then manifest the role of villain in a dentist? The media have of course enforced the negative stereotype of dentists, broadcasted it, and undoubtedly this has contributed to the development of fears and false impressions in vulnerable groups of people, specifically children. I don’t believe that it is purely popular culture’s responsibility that this phobia has been acquired in such a widespread manner; the fear must have been evident before for directors to recognise the effect it had on viewers and subsequently utilise it to evoke fear and create a negatively viewed character. Therefore; media is not responsible for the fear developing in people, but it Is responsible for worsening and confirming existing fears in people. A different approach to the dental industry by the media should be adopted to minimise the growing epidemic of this phobia. There are several theories claiming to explain the development of phobias, and each can be related to dental phobia to varying degrees. Many psychoanalysts, such as Coriac (1904) argues that humans have an inherent psychological attachment to their teeth, and may even subconsciously attach teeth to vulnerability and danger.
This is justified by various studies, suggesting that your fear of dentists is completely natural. Compared to any other body part, we dream significantly more about teeth, most predominantly teeth falling out. Corait argued that dreaming of tooth loss is a ‘fear of damned up sexual excitation, unsatisfied and unutilised’, as well as a fear of castration since teeth could also represent genitals. There are suggestions that tooth loss dreams represent internal desires to go back to the toothless period of time in our lifes, where there were no pressures or duties of responsibility; a tooth gap represents absence of love; decaying teeth a signifier of ageing and bodily decay; false teeth implying sin because of the deception involved- the list continues. Though such analysis, any aspect of one’s life can be associated to teeth, but the validity of this theory is easily disputed without a biological or evolutionary reason for why its specifically teeth, and not any other body part.This biological reason can be found in the animal kingdom, where the utilisation of teeth is a universal form communication.
This can explain the significance of teeth in human subconscious and subsequently its prevalence in our dreams, because humans are part of the animal kingdom as well, and share some of these forms of communication. For example, baring teeth can communicate vulnerability and defeat, but also power and attack amongst predatory animals; smiling indicates your peaceful intentions and confirming you’re not a threat. As the only part of our core skeleton to be visible on our external, teeth are something wholly personal but equally public, and subsequently symbolise the linkages between our internal body systems and its interaction with the external world. Considering this, it makes sense that symbolic dreams are centralised around teeth rather than another body part. Therefore, these subconscious relations of teeth have made them automatic ‘danger areas’, contributed to by teeth’s’ communication role in the animal kingdom and their unique position on our body.
This may have led to many developments of dental phobia cases, since people believe that having teeth changed teeth will be synonymous with other changes in the body. These phobic cases can be minimised if the intuitive teeth connotations could be addressed, but we can’t actively locate a fear in the subconscious to then remove it. So in this case, removing a unconscious phobia has to be achieved when we are in an unconscious state, leading to a potential answer in hypnosis. Hypnotic techniques were tested in 1997, on a nine year old subject with extreme dental anxiety, nicknamed Miss C. She was asked to visualise her favourite movies with her mother assuming the role of the ‘the TV remote’ to turn her virtual movies on and off. This technique was implemented during Miss C’s treatment alongside breathing and relaxation techniques.
The results were astounding. In just one session, Miss C went from not being able to sit through a single dental check up to being completely desensitised when the dentist approached her teeth and tapped them, to no anxious response! By completely focussing on a different situation, whilst being aware of your current environment, Miss C demonstrated that hypnosis could be a potential solution for those struggling with anxiety.