Afraid of the dentist?

Oral health charity the British Dental Health Foundation asked more than 2,000 people if they were more afraid of the dentist than the UK's 10 most commonly reported phobias, according to Anxiety UK.

One in three (33%) said a routine check-up was scarier than interacting with other people.

Visiting the dentist also caused greater anxiety than open spaces (31%), blushing, driving, animals and confined spaces.

Spiders and flying (25%), and vomiting and illness (24%) completed the list.

Karen Coates, a dental advisor at the British Dental Health Foundation says: 'People who are scared of the dentist often call us for help because they're at the end of the line.

'Their teeth don't look nice anymore or they're in a lot of pain with toothache, and they want to make the first step to seeing a dentist and getting their teeth sorted out.

'If you haven't seen a dentist for years through fear and anxiety, be reassured that you should find the experience dramatically more bearable nowadays.

'Most people who are scared of the dentist have bad memories from childhood of the smells and sounds of the surgery.

'The reality is modern dental surgeries are much friendlier environments with flowers in the waiting room, art on the walls, a pleasant reception area and polite staff.'

The survey also pointed to some of the main reasons a visit to the dentist is seen as scary.

When asked what influences fear of the dentist the most, one in three (31%) said needles and injections while one in four (25%) suggested pain was the main influence.

The good news for patients afraid of the dentist is that more and more dentists nowadays understand their patients' fears, and with a combination of kindness, gentleness and improvements in technology they can do a lot to make dental treatment a normal part of life.

'It is an altogether gentler experience,' continued Karen.

'Of course, you'll still have the smells and sounds of the dental surgery but these are less noticeable than they used to be with instruments hidden from sight and background music playing.

'Even drills aren't as noisy as they used to be.

'Advances in technology have also improved dentistry.

'Treatment can now be completely painless.

'The dental wand (a computer-driven injection system) is great for anyone with a needle phobia or a numbing gel can be used to numb your gums before an injection.

'Many dentists also offer techniques such as sedation and relaxation to help their nervous patients.'

If you have any questions, you can contact the British Dental Health Foundation's dental helpline.

It is staffed by fully trained oral health experts offering free and impartial advice.

You can contact the helpline by calling 0845 063 1188 or through the online form on the website.

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