Monday, January 14, 2013

The Top 7 Reasons We Avoid the Dentist

Many people dread the dentist, even though dental visits are the No. 1 key to dental health. Once you understand the reasons for all those skipped appointments, you can start to overcome your dental anxiety.

Has a painful past experience given you a fear of the dentist? Do you fear getting bad news about your dental health? Whatever the reason, you’re not alone — many Americans are simply skipping visits to the dentist. Overall, about 65 percent of us go to the dentist, but in some states, that number is much lower, even as low as 51.9 percent in Mississippi.

This is more than unfortunate — it can be downright dangerous, because regular dental visits are a key component of overall dental health. “We use our teeth multiple times a day, every day,” says Jennifer K. Shin, DDS, a dentist in private practice in New York City. “They take on a lot of abuse, so coming in twice a year gives us an opportunity to assess any changes that can be easily addressed. If problems are caught early, the solutions are easy, quick, and inexpensive. But a cavity left undiagnosed can lead to a toothache, requiring much more extensive and costly treatments.”

Why We Fear the Dentist

Why are people avoiding dental visits? The answer includes a wide range of reasons:

Cost. High prices are the major factor preventing many people from getting regular dental checkups. A recent survey found that 44 percent of people were not visiting the dentist because they don’t have dental insurance. “The truth is that if you take good care of your teeth and mouth, yearly dental visits won’t cost a ton of money,” says John Dodes, DDS, a dentist in Forest Hills, N.Y., and author of Healthy Teeth: A User’s Guide. “Easy additions to your routine, like flossing and rinsing with a therapeutic mouthwash like Listerine, can help get and keep your mouth healthy.”

Dental anxiety. Many people simply are afraid of the dentist’s office, but David S. Keen, DDS, a dentist in private practice in Beverly Hills, Calif., says there are a number of things you can do to minimize this. An effective way to make the experience positive is to speak with your dentist about your fears, and consider listening to pleasant music to promote an environment that is positive and soothing, more like a spa, he says. “Communication is usually the best way to develop a positive dental experience.”

Fear of needing dental work. “I’ve found in my 40 years of practice that very few patients are afraid of the actual cleaning, but rather they don’t want to hear any bad news about their teeth or any dental problems they’ve acquired,” says Dr. Dodes. “Avoidance and denial are strong human emotions, which can play a role in why people don’t visit the dentist as often as they should.”

Fear of instruments. The reason people fear that bad news, Dodes adds, is that treatment might be a painful or frightening procedure involving a scary dental instrument. Luckily, this is rarely the case today. “There have been so many new advances in dental care, including laser dentistry, which usually requires no Novocain,” says Jeffrey Gross, DDS, a dentist in the Cleveland area. “Also, the drills used today are so advanced that there is little noise or discomfort.”

Bad memories. Even the most advanced dental techniques can’t erase bad memories from dental visits of years past. “Many people fear the dentist because when they were children, they were told to not be afraid,” says Dr. Gross. “This actually instilled fear that has lasted many years. Dental visits today are very different, with many dentists offering music, TVs, and new high-tech procedures that can help erase old memories.”
Just too busy (or lazy). Sometimes, people have too much going on in their lives or just don’t want to make the effort to go to the dentist. “We are all creatures of habit,” says Gross. “If we don’t build it into our routine, it becomes one of those things that we have to ‘get around to doing.’ Once we skip a visit or more, it is out of our routine. This is why progressive dental offices work so hard on reminding people and setting up their visits. These programs are specifically designed to combat these issues.”

Fear of getting lectured. Nobody likes to be lectured about their dental health. And if you've been neglecting your brushing and flossing for some time, then you might fear that a lecture is coming. “In my office, I recognize this fact, and ‘lecturing’ or reprimanding is the last thing on my mind,” says Gross. “These types of comments are counterproductive — the patient’s discomfort, which brought them into the office, is reprimand enough. But the fear of a lecture is a pervasive thought on the minds of many patients. Many times this is due to guilt as they know better, and they simply don’t want to hear any more about it.”

The best way to address your personal reasons for avoiding dental visits is to voice them to your dentist. Give him or her the opportunity to reassure you and get you back on course for good dental health.

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Call Omni Dental today at (512) 250-5012 to speak with one of our specialists about the latest ways of enhancing your smile and dental health. You can also go to our website: for more information.


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