New report shows dental anxiety linked to income, education, self-confidence, and social isolation, says Dr Nigel Carter
New research reveals that being afraid of the dentist can not only affect your oral health but can seriously damage your overall quality of life.
The study, published in the International Dental Journal, revealed that dental anxiety can heavily impact you psychologically and socially, leading to feelings such as shame, poor self-confidence and social isolation .
Key elements of social wellbeing, such as income and education, were also negatively affected by dental anxiety Those questioned were almost twice as likely to be on a lower income if they feared dental visits. Results also showed they were twice as likely to suffer from poor oral health.
More than 10 million adults in the United Kingdom have some level of dental anxiety, with an estimated six million suffering from dental phobia.
Following the publication of this remarkable research, leading oral health charity, the Oral Health Foundation, is drawing attention to the importance of overcoming dental anxiety and the effect it can have far beyond the mouth.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE (top) CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, explained: “About one in five Brits admit to being afraid or anxious about visiting a dentist in Britain.
“This is an incredibly widespread anxiety and is one of the key reasons why people don’t visit the dentist as often as they should. This can put you at risk of significant oral health problems and, as this research shows, other important areas of your life.
“Avoiding a visit to the dentist due to fear puts you at greater risk of missing oral health problems, such as early signs of tooth decay or gum disease, until it gets too late to treat effectively, and you have no choice but to have extensive treatment.
“It can also have knock-on effects on self-confidence and other elements of psychological wellbeing, which can impact you socially in your relationships or even career. It can also lead to potentially significant health issues. Untreated gum disease has been linked to systemic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
"Modern dentistry is very different to the scare stories on which you may base your dental anxiety, and, with modern techniques, all dental treatment is now virtually painless. There really is no need to fear a visit to the dentist.”
Manchester-based dentist and Trustee of the Oral Health Foundation, Dr Ben Atkins, has some top tips to help you overcome your fear of the dentist:
Do your research
“This starts way before you even set foot in the dental practice. Do some light research to find a ‘good dentist’.
“Speak with friends and family about their positive experiences with the dentist, this can help you find the dentist which is right for you.
“Many find their dentist through word of mouth and this seems to be a sensible approach that can put you at ease.”
Making an appointment
“This is a great place to make a choice which can really help you overcome your anxiety. Make an appointment first thing in the morning, by doing this it gives you less time to dwell upon it on the day itself and you will be less likely to back out.”
Talk and ask questions
“When it comes to your appointment, communication is key. Dentists are used to anxious patients, as it is a very common problem, so they understand how to make your experience as smooth and easy as possible.
“Discuss with them everything that will happen, if you have a question ask it, they don’t mind. By getting as much information as possible it should help to sooth your anxiety.”
“If you need a hand to hold for a bit of support, make sure you get it. Dentists are very happy for you to take a friend or family member to your appointment to give you the support you need. But make sure they are not scared too.
“If you need that added support dentists are very happy for you to listen to music during your treatment of take something with you to use for support. Anything that will help to keep you calm is beneficial to everyone.
“After your check-up or treatment, you will hopefully come out saying “well that wasn’t so bad” and your next visit will be much easier for you.”
1] Hakeberg, M. and Wide, U. (2018). General and oral health problems among adults with focus on dentally anxious individuals. International Dental Journal.