Getting over your fear of the dentist

New Zealand is a nation of ‘dentaphobics’ with many Kiwis saying they would rather bump into an ex-partner, be caught with their fly undone or walk out of a bathroom with toilet paper stuck to their shoe than visit the dentist according to a new survey conducted by Oral-B.

What the Oral-B Dentophobia survey stats show

The survey showed some interesting insights into our habits:

  • Along with avoiding dental appointments, those Kiwis who do eventually show up often lie to their dentists.
  • Anxiety, or ‘dentaphobia’ levels are generally high when visiting a dentist. 71% of women and 59% of men admitted to feeling either somewhat or extremely anxious about going to the dentist.
  • When asked what was most likely to cause anxiety, 65% of those surveyed were most concerned about ‘the likely cost if there is anything wrong’ .
  • More than a third of those surveyed said their last dental visit was more than three years ago or never.

What the dentists say

The thing about dentists is that they can tell if you’re lying to them about your oral care as soon as you open your mouth!

Auckland dentist Dr Phil Brake says he’s ‘heard it all’ when it comes to white lies about patients’ daily dental hygiene habits and continues to be astounded by the number of people who avoid dental care completely.

‘I’ve had female patients say to me they’d rather give birth than have a dental treatment! I believe a fear of dentists originates from dread passed on by parents to their children. Dentists and dentistry has changed enormously in the past 20 years, techniques, materials and attitudes have all greatly improved,’ he says.

He adds that not having enough time to attend a dental visit is simply not acceptable. ‘Two hygiene visits a year is less cost than a good meal at a restaurant, dental problems never go away, they only escalate.’

Dr Brake says annual dental check-ups with six monthly hygiene appointments and brushing and flossing between appointments is essential for good oral health.

How do I get over my dentist fear?

  • Find a dentist who you will trust. If you don’t feel comfortable with your dentist, any appointments you make will continue to cause anxiety. Some dentists are better at dealing with fearful patients than others, so don’t be discouraged from changing dentists if your existing one doesn’t have a particularly good ‘bedside manner’ to help you feel more at ease.
  • If you’re concerned about the money side of things, remind yourself that if you leave it off for too long, any problems could get much worse and cost you a lot more further down the track.
  • Don’t put off your appointment, set a date in your diary with your dentist receptionist and commit to it!
  • When you go to your appointment, there’s nothing wrong with asking what’s about to happen. Get your dentist to explain what they’re going to do before they get started so that nothing is unexpected.
  • Use relaxation techniques: Listen to your own music on a portable music device before you go in, take big deep slow calm breaths.
  • Drag along a friend or relative for support; they can help alleviate your fears.

Image / FreeDigitalPhotos.net – Gregory Szarkiewicz

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