Apparently, both dental fear and dental phobia are a thing, and not something I made up in my head:
It is estimated that as many as 75% of US adults experience some degree of dental fear, from mild to severe. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of U.S. adults are considered to experience dental phobia; that is, they are so fearful of receiving dental treatment that they avoid dental care at all costs. Many dentally fearful people will only seek dental care when they have a dental emergency, such as a toothache or dental abscess.
There’s a questionnaire in existence (Corah’s Dental Anxiety Scale) to diagnose it. I scored 17 out of 20, so, yeah – severe anxiety of phobia, but could be slightly worse. Treatment, interestingly, can combine both behavioral techniques, such as positive reinforcement, and pharmacological solutions such as sedation and anesthesia.
And, for those who want to explore this even further, Dental Fear Central is a good place to start.