It seems like no matter how far we have come in the world of modern dentistry the perception of the dentist has not changed much since the days of the old west where the barber put his foot in your chest and yanked out your tooth. Research by the British Dental Health Foundation suggests that visiting the dentist makes people more nervous than snakes or spiders.The research echoes a March 2011, Adult Dental Health Survey which revealed half of adults – especially women – were classified as having moderate to extreme dental anxiety.
In a survey of 1004 people, the Foundation found what made them most nervous from a list including heights, flying, injections, doctors, snakes, spiders, going to hospital or visiting the dentist was visiting the dentist. Over one in five people ranked visiting their dentist as the thing that made them most nervous – more than any other category.
1. Heights topped the poll of biggest fears
2. Closely followed by visiting the dentist
3. Going to the hospital
4. Snakes were rated fourth
5. Spiders came fifth.
In comparison to Physicians, Dentists also struggled. The Foundation discovered that nearly 10 times as many people (22 per cent) were made most nervous by their dentist, as compared to their physician (two per cent). The Adult Dental Health Survey points to two dental treatments in particular as the main cause of these nerves: three out of ten (30 per cent) adults said that having a tooth drilled would make them very or extremely anxious. A similar number (28 per cent) of people reported equivalent levels of anxiety about having a local anesthetic injection.
Dr Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said: “Everyone in the profession knows that dental anxiety is a major barrier for many people to visit their dentist.” What may prove concerning is just how poorly the dental profession rates in comparison to doctors. The comparison with snakes and spiders may appear frivolous, but it does suggest dentists still have a lot of work to do to build public confidence. Unfortunately, in modern dentistry the gap between reality and perception is the Grand Canyon, because there really is no modern reason to fear your dentist. All of the old procedures are now performed with great comfort and no pain to patient.
Dr. Novy Scheinfeld is a trained prosthodontist with her post-graduate degrees from Emory University School of Dentistry. She was recently chosen as one of America’s Top Dentists for 2011.
Novy Scheinfeld, DDS, PC
290 Carpenter Drive, 200A
Atlanta (Sandy Springs), GA 30328
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 Adult Dental Health Survey 2009, the Health and Social Care Information Centre.
Published March 2011.
 British Dental Health Foundation. Sample Size: 1004.