Understanding Phobias and Tactile Sensitivity: Navigating the Sensory Challenges of Brushing Teeth | Yorkshire Dental Suite

January 3rd, 2024

Understanding Phobias and Tactile Sensitivity: Navigating the Sensory Challenges of Brushing Teeth

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Sensory Issues when Brushing Teeth

Are you one of the many people who dread the daily routine of brushing your teeth due to discomfort or a profound sense of unease? You’re not alone. A surprising number of people experience phobias or tactile sensitivities, particularly when it comes to oral hygiene. Let’s take a look at the world of sensory issues related to brushing teeth, with insights and strategies to manage and overcome these challenges.

What is tactile sensitivity?

Tactile sensitivity, or tactile defensiveness, is a condition where the sense of touch is more acute than usual, leading to discomfort or aversion to certain textures, touches and sensations. When it comes to brushing teeth, the bristles of the toothbrush, the texture of the toothpaste or the sensation of brushing can be overwhelming for someone with tactile sensitivity.

Phobias related to brushing teeth

A phobia is an intense, irrational fear of something that poses little to no actual danger. While not as common, some individuals develop a phobia related to brushing their teeth, known as dentophobia or odontophobia. This can stem from a bad experience at the dentist, fear of pain or the discomfort associated with the brushing sensation itself.

The impact of sensory issues on oral hygiene

Neglecting oral hygiene due to phobias or tactile sensitivity can lead to a host of dental issues, including cavities, gum disease and bad breath. Understanding and addressing these sensory challenges is crucial for maintaining oral health and overall well-being.

Tips for managing tactile sensitivity and phobias

  1. Gradual exposure: Slowly introduce the sensation of brushing. Start with a softer toothbrush and gently get used to the sensation.
  2. Use sensory-friendly products: There are toothbrushes designed for sensitive teeth and gums, including electric toothbrushes which can provide a more consistent and gentle cleaning experience. Additionally, consider milder toothpaste flavours and textures to reduce sensory overload.
  3. Create a relaxing environment: Reduce stress by brushing in a calm and comforting setting. Playing soft music or using a timer can also make the process more predictable and less daunting.
  4. Seek professional help: If your phobia or sensitivity is severely impacting your life, consider speaking to a therapist specialising in phobias or a sensory integration occupational therapist.


Tactile sensitivity and phobias related to brushing teeth are real and can be challenging. However, with understanding, patience and the right strategies, it’s possible to make brushing a more comfortable part of your day. Remember, you’re not alone, and help is available. Taking the first step towards addressing your sensory issues can lead to a healthier, happier life.

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