There aren’t many people who look forward to visiting the dentist, but for some, a dental appointment is more than just an inconvenience — it’s a nightmare. For people with dental anxiety, even the simplest procedures can trigger fear that could make appointments extremely stressful, or could even prevent visits to the dentist at all.
In fact, some estimates suggest that up to 15% of Americans avoid going to the dentist due to dental anxiety (that’s tens of millions of people!) With that in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that new research indicates that people with a fear of the dentist have overall poorer oral health than their fearless peers.
The Negative Effects of Dental Anxiety
A recent study from King’s College London examined data on around 10,000 people, around 13% of whom reported experiencing dental anxiety. The research confirmed that fear of the dentist and the resulting reluctance to see the dentist regularly was having a negative impact on the oral health of people with dental anxiety.
The statistics showed that people who reported having dental anxiety were much more likely to suffer from decay and tooth loss. This could be a result of multiple things: First, that those who dread visiting the dentist may skip recommended checkups and cleanings, which could not only result in lax or poorly executed at-home oral health care, but could prevent patients from realizing that they have budding dental problems until it’s too late.
On top of that, researchers believe there’s a high likelihood that those with dental anxiety may select simpler procedures when presented with their options — for example, people who fear the dentist might choose to have a tooth extracted rather than repaired if the extraction is a quicker and easier procedure. They are especially likely to avoid treatments that require repeat visits.
Ditching the Dentist Isn’t the Answer
Dental anxiety is a real problem that plagues a wide variety of people. But the solution to that fear isn’t to avoid the source. As this study shows, skipping the dentist may prevent stress in the moment, but ultimately leads to worse dental problems (and consequently, more unpleasant procedures).
Your dentist performs many essential duties at regular checkups. On a basic level, a cleaning helps eliminate the hardened plaque, known as tartar, that you can’t remove at home with your own toothbrush. It also allows your dentist to weigh in on your oral health habits, letting you know if you have weak spots that need to be corrected.
But that’s not all! Your dentist also screens for signs of issues like periodontal disease, tooth decay, and oral cancer. Most of these cases can be taken care of easily if caught early, but if you aren’t seeing your dentist regularly, they could progress into something far more dangerous and difficult to treat.
Don’t let dental anxiety keep you from having the oral healthcare you need to maintain a healthy and beautiful smile. Sedation dentistry could be the key to changing dental procedures from nightmares into distant dreams. This safe and easy treatment can take the anxiety out of your dental visits.