Why am I Scared of the Dentist?

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Throughout the UK chances are that you’re either scared of the dentist or you know someone that is. Fears about going to the dentist are common, and many of us who require dental treatment find excuses and reasons to avoid going. There’s nothing wrong in being scared of the dentist, being scared or fearful is an emotional response that works as a survival mechanism to protect you or others from any perceived threat of physical or mental danger. So, what are the perceived threats that stop us going to the dentist, the top three are as follows.

Pain from Dental Treatment

Unsurprisingly pain tops the list. Most of the time you’ve spoken to a friend or relative and they have had or known someone whose had a painful traumatic experience at the hands of the dentist. Such relayed experiences can be so overwhelming to the listener’s consciousness that they adopt the traumatic person's behaviour and vow never to go to the dentist, lest they have such a harrowing encounter. Many children unconsciously condition themselves to adopt a similar attitude after noticing or being informed that a close relative is terrified of visiting the dentist, and this feedback loop can pass unhindered from generation to generation. The thinking is simple, pain scares us like no other and most of us want to avoid pain.  If it happened to them, it could happen to me. It doesn’t help that such stories are then reinforced, usually by an active imagination, by the long needles and the sharp tools the dentist uses to do his job. Or that the patient lies backwards in the dental chair at an angled upright position in a passive and helpless pose; head back, mouth full of saliva, doctor speaking in a language code you don’t understand, insecurity rising, and you see the whole procedure happening in front of your eyes. It’s easy to see why many of us feel a perceived threat. However, many people can now testify after overcoming their previous fears that visiting the dentist is more beneficial in the long term, than the pain and problems encountered when persistently avoiding dental treatment.

Expensive Dental Treatment

You've eaten that delicious flapjack after desert and a molar on the right side of your mouth hurts, and thus you go to see the dentist. After his initial check-up, the dentist tells you that not only will you need a filling for that right molar that hurts, but your also have five other hitherto painless teeth that are destined to be need filling in the not too distant future; the dentist being able to notice potential problems that need rectifying sooner rather than later. On top of this though, he doesn't just recommend the standard amalgam filling (the black filling usually used in the back teeth), but the expensive high class ones made out of gold, or those that seamlessly blend in with the colour of the healthy white teeth at the front of your mouth, which he urges you to buy with a combination of his persuasive psychological tricks and your need to look good. In all fairness though the dentist is promoting products and offering suggestions in your best interest and satisfactions, which you can always decline if money is tight or you don’t agree with his opinion. Typically though, money, vanity and his psychology normally ensures a costly but beneficial service at the dentist.

Sometimes though the fear can be due to other financial reasons. Living in a recession can be tough, and none of us wants to needlessly spend money when we don’t feel that we need to. Just as well that most of the time we feel that, even if our teeth cause us pain, we can survive and get through without any assistance of the dentist. Bearing that we can always change our diets as to minimize the pain, which will be most likely beneficial overall to our health. Lastly, it helps that our teeth are usually hidden from other people's vision and occasionally our own, and if its out of sight, its out of mind.

Fellings of Guilt

Once in a while everybody forgets to brush their teeth. More common is that many of us forget to brush or clean our teeth often, even though we are inundated throughout our lives by the media, school, health professionals and our relatives about the health benefits and advantages by brushing our teeth. It’s not just that though, we are also told by nearly everyone not to eat food high in sugar, or high in acidity, and once again many of us eat these types of food. Moreover, we hold this strange teeth myth that teeth are indestructible and eternal until we start eating the wrong types of food and so any consequence of our teeth's condition is completely down to our own actions. Whenever we indulge in forbidden-by-your-teeth pleasurable food or drink, we start to feel the pangs of guilt, that unlike most reasons for going to the doctor, any reason to go to the dentist is our fault. “If only I didn’t forget to brush my teeth” or “I shouldn’t have eaten that doughnut sprinkled with sugar” I wouldn’t need to go to the dentist, its my fault, my teeth should be a beautiful sparkling and glistening white.

However, whilst these common fears are legitimate they do not reflect the reality of modern day dentistry: modern advancements in the dental industry mean that people shouldn’t be scared of going to the dentist anymore. Modern dentistry is aware of the types of fears that many people have in going to the dentist and have developed techniques, materials and environments to allay these fears. For instance, if going to the dentist makes you anxious and fearful of the potential pain, the dentist can now give you relaxing sedatives to gently ease the anxiety, discomfort and pain. Furthermore, the modern dental environments are cosmetic rather than clinical, this makes the customer experience more reassuring, comfortable, and pleasant.

Moreover, it isn’t just dental techniques and environment that have improved, but also the dentist himself is now trained in communication skills, making you able to feel relaxed and calm in his presence and treatment. The dentist will respond to any queries and questions you have about the dental treatment and the service you will be receiving. At the end of treatment the dentist will give you advice on how to care and maintain your teeth better for the future, so hopefully you won’t have to visit the dentist outside the regular checkups. Modern dentistry means that there should be no reason to be scared of going to the dentist anymore.

Read more in the Dental Treatment Information Guide »