Dental anxiety is common in the US. In fact, dental phobia is the most common fear according to a recent study, even more common than arachnophobia.
But while arachnophobia might help people avoid poisonous spiders, dental phobia has a decidedly negative effect. And that’s been confirmed with a recent study that showed people with dental anxiety were more likely to have cavities and missing teeth.
The good news is that if you’re a person with anxiety, we offer sedation dentistry to help you overcome your anxiety and get the dental care you need.
Dental Anxiety and Dental Health
For this study, researchers looked at the Adult Dental Health Survey (ADHS) in the UK from 2009. This survey included questions about dental anxiety as well as many measures of oral health, including:
- Number of cavities
- Number of missing teeth
- PUFA Score
- Gum health
- Quality of life related to oral health
You can probably understand most of these different measures, except the PUFA score. PUFA stands for pulp exposure, ulceration, fistula, abscess. Pulp is the living material inside your tooth. When it’s exposed, you can experience painful toothaches and are at risk for an infected tooth. Ulceration occurs when sharp fragments break off from your tooth and irritate the gums around the tooth. Fistulas are tubes that develop from an infected tooth to the outside, which allows the draining of pus from an infected tooth–and may prevent infected teeth from hurting. Abscess simply refers to infected teeth and gums.
The survey results showed a strong correlation between dental anxiety and three indicators of oral health. People with dental anxiety were more likely to have more cavities, have more missing teeth, and have a lower quality of life.
How Dental Anxiety Leads to Poor Oral Health
Dental anxiety can actually have a two-fold impact on people’s oral health. The most obvious impact is that it keeps people from going to the dentist. When people are anxious about dental visits, they don’t get the preventive care they need to avoid cavities and tooth loss. Because they’re not getting regular dental checkups, they’re more likely to develop cavities and more likely to have those cavities develop into tooth-threatening conditions.
But even once they make it to a dentist, dental anxiety influences treatment choices. People with anxiety aren’t necessarily going to pick the best dental treatment for them. They’re more likely to pick the dental treatment that gets them out of the office faster with fewer follow-up treatments. This means that they’re more likely, for example, to choose to extract a tooth than try to save it. This can explain why, for example, they’re more likely to have missing teeth, but not more likely to have the leading cause of missing teeth, gum disease.
Let Us Help You Overcome Your Anxiety
We understand that many people in our community have serious dental anxiety that makes it hard for them to get proper preventive and restorative dentistry. That’s why we work hard to make the dental experience at our office as stress-free and calming as possible. And for people with high levels of anxiety, we offer sedation dentistry, which allows you to get your oral health cared for despite your anxiety levels.