After looking at pictures of dental treatment scenes, researchers discovered that female patients scared of the dentist were six times more likely to be disgusted with what they saw, compared with non-dental phobic women.
In a battle of the sexes, dental phobic women struggled to hide their emotions. Although both men and woman faired equally when asked about their feelings towards the dentist, women afraid of the dentist were more repulsed than their men counterparts.
Survey data from the Adult Dental Health Survey showed almost half of adults were moderately to extremely afraid of the dentist. With almost 30 million people visiting the dentist, Karen Coates, Dental Advisor at the British Dental Health Foundation, uses the research to reassure anxious patients that they are not alone and that there are ways make visiting the dentist a manageable experience.
Karen said: "The good news is that more and more dentists now understand their patients' fears, and with a combination of kindness and gentleness can do a great deal to make dental treatment an acceptable, normal part of life. Make sure that the practice knows you are nervous, so that they can help you. You are not alone and your fear will be much less if you share it with your dental team.
"Dentists are aware many of their patients have some form of anxiety. There are dentists who specialise in treating nervous patients and will make more time for you. Book appointments at a time of day when you feel at your best and when you do not have any other commitments to worry about. Allow plenty of time so that you can get to the practice in a relaxed frame of mind.
"Agree with your dentist a sign that means 'stop I need a break' before the treatment is started. Usually you can just raise your hand, and the treatment can be stopped for a few minutes until you are ready to start again. Once you know that you can control the situation you will feel more confident. Some people find that listening to music whilst they are having treatment can help. If you are still nervous there are other techniques your dentist can use to help you, such as relaxation and sedation so ask the team about these.
"Patients anxious of the dentist are, in theory, likely to have poorer oral health than those who get regular check-ups. Even if you are fearful it is important to visit the dentist regularly, as often as they recommend giving them a chance a chance to assess your oral health. Catching any problems whilst they are still small will mean that the treatment involved is much less and lighter on your pocket too. Truly a case that prevention is better than a cure. Always remember that you are in charge of your oral health for the rest of the time and brushing, twice a day for two minutes using a fluoride toothpaste, will help to remove plaque - the cause of both decay and gum disease. It is also important to clean in between teeth using interdental brushes or floss."
The Foundation recommends the following for good oral health:
- Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste
- Cut down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks
- Visit the dentist regularly - as often as they recommend.