If you are like many Americans (30 to 40 million adults, or roughly 15 percent of the population to be exact), you have skipped necessary dental treatments or preventive care due to fear and anxiety about going to the dentist.
As far as phobias go, fear of the dentist is incredibly common, so if you have been suffering in silence or feel embarrassment over your predicament, rest assured that you are not alone. Dentists have heard and seen it all and are prepared to walk you through your worries, anxiety and concerns in order to get you the care you need.
4 Things Your Dentist Is Thinking During Your Dental Exam
Fear of pain and of being judged are usually at the top of the list of reasons that keep otherwise rational and health-conscious adults from going to the dentist. Despite the fact that the American Dental Association (ADA) strongly recommends a dental exam and professional cleaning every six months to a year to maintain your oral health and prevent tooth decay and gum disease, many people skip going to the dentist at all until something goes wrong. In extreme cases, dental phobias are so strong that people choose to live with pain, which can lead to serious oral and even general health problems.
But the good news is that it's never too late to go to the dentist, whether your last appointment was three, 10 or even 30 years ago! If you are afraid that your dentist might judge you and your dental habits, remember that dentists are trained professionals whose career and livelihood revolves around helping you get the dental care you need.
Here are a few things dentists wishes you knew about what they're really thinking during your appointment.
1. They Can Tell If You've Been Flossing (So Don't Bother Lying About It)
Dentists do not have a crystal ball that magically lets them in on your oral hygiene and lifestyle habits — your gums tell them everything they need to know. Rather than feeling guilty or embarrassed about the fact that you have been neglecting regular flossing, schedule an appointment for a checkup and cleaning to get an accurate assessment of your oral health, and go from there. Good oral hygiene habits do not have an expiration date — you can start any time.
2. They Wish You Had Come in Sooner
The longer you put off dental treatment, the more damage you are likely to have by way of tooth decay or gum disease. As medical professionals, dentists want what is best for your teeth and gums, and they are strong advocates of preventive treatment.
3. They Wish You'd Kick Your Smoking/Sugar/Alcohol Habit
The things that are bad for your general health are also bad for your teeth and gums. In addition to brushing and flossing every day and going in for preventive dental treatment, a healthy diet low in sugar and alcohol (and no smoking!) is also an important factor in your oral health. You may already know that eating and drinking too much sugar can lead to cavities, but alcohol dries out your mouth, limiting the flow of saliva that is essential to neutralizing harmful oral bacteria.
4. They're Not Here to Judge You
As health professionals, dentists aren't interested in judging you or making you feel bad. All they really care about is your oral health. Rather than worrying about what they might think of you on a personal level, think of dentists as partners who are on your side and working to protect your oral health.