You know that dental anxiety fills your dental exams with uncertainty and even fear. That’s bad enough - but what about the bigger ramifications it could have on your health?

Dental anxiety is more than unease at the thought of dental care. It can actually have a long-term impact on your oral health - and a new study is showing that those effects are widespread.

Before reading on to learn more about this study’s findings, we want to reiterate something we’ve discussed before on this blog - dental anxiety is possible to overcome. Even if you’ve been anxious about dental treatment since childhood, you can discover new ways to view your dental care and gain a more positive impression. And we can help. If you’re nervous about dental treatment and living in the Seattle area, we urge you to reach out and learn more about how Dr. Okamura can help you experience comfortable and communicative care. Get in touch today.

Research Findings: People with Dental Phobia are More Likely to Have Dental Problems

A new study performed by King’s College London analyzed data from a large 2009 survey of 10,900 individuals. Of those surveyed, 1,367 identified as having dental phobia. The study yielded findings that are extremely interesting to anyone with a fear of the dentist, or even mild dental anxiety. Those with dental phobia were more likely to

  • Have untreated cavities
  • Have experienced tooth loss (with 1 or more missing teeth)
  • Experience a poor quality of life related to their oral health

While those first two points are fairly straightforward, the last deserves a little discussion. How can your oral health reduce your quality of life? Well, our mouths and smiles are connected to many different emotional components, and have a big impact on our daily lives. When someone has cavities, gum disease or a missing tooth, they’re more likely to feel self-conscious about their teeth. This leads to them hiding their teeth from others, and limiting social and professional interactions. They may also feel less valuable.

Additionally, the study found that even when they didn’t have active dental problems, those with dental phobia still expressed negative feelings. These included sadness, exhaustion, discouragement and overall anxiety.

Life’s too short to have dental anxiety dragging you down. But what’s the answer for anxious patients? The first step is figuring out a personalized plan that will work for their own needs - more on that below.

How Can Anxious Patients Break This Cycle?

Every patient is different, and dental anxiety takes different forms. No single approach is going to work for everyone. But there are some tactics that help a wide range of patients. These include:

  • Scheduling regular dental exams - We know, this seems counterintuitive - the cure for dental anxiety is actually spending more time at the dentist? The thing is, the more often you visit, the more natural the environment will feel. And on top of that, routine care will help you catch dental problems before they have a chance to grow and present a bigger threat. More serious decay or dental problems requires more invasive treatment, which no anxious patient wants to experience. So bite the bullet and schedule your next dental exam - and in the future, make it a point to always have your next exam on the schedule. It never hurts to arrange it early!

  • Understanding the best home care for their teeth - Oral hygiene is the daily means of preventing plaque buildup and avoiding tooth decay and gum disease. But many patients aren’t sure which products they should be using, or how well they’re doing with their brushing and flossing. At your next exam, ask Dr. Okamura what she recommends for your needs. Your hygienist will also let you know which areas might benefit from some extra attention when you’re brushing and flossing. They will identify areas of erosion or plaque buildup and help you get on a good path forward.

  • Learning more about their dental history & patterns - We all have different tendencies and our teeth and gums are sensitive in their own ways. Learning more about your dental history and what makes the most sense to watch out for will help you treat your teeth properly and catch dental problems before they have a chance to become more serious.

  • Working with a sedation dentist - Sedation dentistry involves providing both medications and treatment that leave patients feeling at ease in the dental chair. If you’ve had negative dental experiences in the past (as many dental patients have), finding a sedation dentist is an ideal first step toward changing your view of the dentist’s office.

Looking for a compassionate dentist that will be able to get you more comfortable with your dental care? Schedule a consultation to see whether Dr. Okamura and our team might be a good fit.

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Dr. Kim Dr. Kim

Dr. Kim Okamura

I'm Dr. Kim Okamura and this blog is a product of my love of dentistry. I dedicate it to all the patients I have served so that they may better understand my craft. The information here will give you and others the power to maintain and protect one of your most priceless gifts ... your SMILE.