Nearly 34% of UK adults fear the dentist

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Posted on: 11 May 2017 by Jose Calvo

Going to the dentist should be on nearly every adult’s to-do list each year, but a recent survey shows widespread apathy.

A survey conducted by a dental negligence specialist firm points to fear as the underlying problem facing Brits and their oral health. According to respondents, nearly 34% of the 2000 adults surveyed have a pressing fear of going to the dentist, and 76% stated that fear which began in childhood had remained present well into their adult years. Although it is common to be fearful of a dentist visit, many have a difficult time pinpointing the root cause of that anxiety, and that leads to declining oral health over a lifetime. Understanding the reasons why adults fear the dentist is necessary to create an environment where individuals are comfortable addressing their tooth and gum issues promptly to promote a higher level of well-being overall.

Bad Experiences

One of the leading causes of anxiety and fear surrounding the thought of sitting in a dentist’s chair is a previous negative experience. Many people have a horror story involving dental care, most of which stem from childhood. The sights and sounds of a dental office can be overwhelming to adults, so it is not surprising that children perceive going to the dentist as a scary encounter. Adding to the fear were the tools used in dentistry a decade or two ago – large, noisy, and difficult to maneuver dental tools meant a light touch from the dentist was unheard of.

While these childhood experiences are fairly common, and the memories remain embedded in our heads as adults, the dentist’s office of today is less dramatic. Both the techniques and instruments used to perform routine and corrective dental procedures are smaller and far quieter, making for a less invasive experience. Additionally, most dentist offices take care to create warm and inviting spaces for patients to help ease their trepidation. Erasing childhood memories of bad dentist experiences is a tall task, but it is possible when a new, positive memory is created to take its place.

Fear of the Unknown

Another reason adults are fearful of the dentist revolves around a fear of the unknown. Although dental issues like painful or bleeding gums, a sore jaw, or the occasional case of bad breath may be only a slight inconvenience for most, these common problems can be a symptom of a larger, more serious problem. Going to the dentist could result in uncovering a medical issue not previously known, which causes anxiety and fear.

Preventative dentist visits are the best way to stave off any unexpected oral or larger medical concerns. Having an annual checkup that includes a full exam of the mouth and jaw, as well as a thorough cleaning is recommended by most health organisations for this exact reason. Being fearful of the unknown can be completely avoided by simply sticking with a consistent schedule of visiting the dentist.

Potential Pain

Some dental procedures and treatments can be invasive, creating worry that pain is imminent. When a serious oral issue is apparent, dentists may suggest surgery or a treatment option that requires drilling, extraction, or heavy-handed scraping. Each of these can be painful and require some degree of preparation before and recovery after.

Fortunately, modern dentistry includes solutions for pain management, as well as anxiety control during and after treatment. Speaking openly with the office staff and the dentist about fear of potential pain is the most efficient method to resolve any concerns before they become a reality. Anesthesia, pain medication, and exercises for relaxing through breath may all be recommended to help ease the anxiety that comes with the thought of pain from dental care.

Fear of the dentist is a common occurrence among both children and adults, but there are steps one can take to decrease the hesitation before scheduling an appointment. Recognise that today’s dental techniques and tools are less invasive than years prior, and that the dentist is highly skilled to help prevent serious issues from becoming nagging problems. Be prepared to speak openly about desires for pain reduction and management from the start, and most importantly, commit to visiting the dentist on a consistent schedule to ensure health is at its optimal level.

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