People afraid of the dentist are being reminded that dentistry has significantly changed after an alarming number of Brits say dental phobia is scarier than 10 of the UK’s most common phobias, a new survey reveals.
Oral health charity the British Dental Health Foundation asked more than 2,000 people if they were more afraid of the dentist than the UK’s 10 most commonly reported phobias, according to Anxiety UK.
One in three (33 per cent) said a routine check-up was scarier than interacting with other people. Visiting the dentist also caused greater anxiety than open spaces (31 per cent), blushing, driving, animals and confined spaces.
Spiders and flying (25 per cent), and vomiting and illness (24 per cent) completed the list.
The issue is being studied closely around the world, with recent coverage in dental health magazine Bite magazine of the work of researcher Dr Jason Armfield in Adelaide and dentist Dr Avanti Karve highlighting the work being done on the issue in Australia.
The survey also pointed to some of the main reasons a visit to the dentist is seen as scary. When asked what influences fear of the dentist the most, one in three (31 per cent) said needles and injections while one in four (25 per cent) suggested pain was the main influence.
The good news for patients afraid of the dentist is that more and more dentists nowadays understand their patients’ fears, and with a combination of kindness, gentleness and improvements in technology they can do a lot to make dental treatment a normal part of life.
Karen Coates, a Dental Advisor at the British Dental Health Foundation says the organisation’s Dental Helpline receives many calls about fear and phobia, and that the reality is there is nothing to worry about.
“People who are scared of the dentist often call us for help because they’re at the end of the line. Their teeth don’t look nice anymore or they’re in a lot of pain with toothache, and they want to make the first step to seeing a dentist and getting their teeth sorted out.
“If you haven’t seen a dentist for years through fear and anxiety, be reassured that you should find the experience dramatically more bearable nowadays. Most people who are scared of the dentist have bad memories from childhood of the smells and sounds of the surgery. The reality is modern dental surgeries are much friendlier environments with flowers in the waiting room, art on the walls, a pleasant reception area and polite staff.
“It is an altogether gentler experience. Of course, you’ll still have the smells and sounds of the dental surgery but these are less noticeable than they used to be with instruments hidden from sight and background music playing. Even drills aren’t as noisy as they used to be.
Advances in technology have also improved dentistry. Treatment can now be completely painless. The dental wand (a computer-driven injection system) is great for anyone with a needle phobia or a numbing gel can be used to numb your gums before an injection. Many dentists also offer techniques such as sedation and relaxation to help their nervous patients.”