Gender Roles in Dental Phobia

In an effort to better understand dental phobia, research comparing gender and emotional reaction to dental treatments has recently been published in the European Journal of Oral Sciences.  While there isn’t a huge gap between the number of men who are afraid of the dentist and their female counterparts, the study showed that women are much more likely to be physically repulsed by dental treatments.  The study, “Can you read my poker face? A study on sex differences in dentophobia,” and summarized in a recent Medical News Today article, showed a variety of images to participants, half of which confessed to having a fear of dental procedures.  The images depicted dental treatment scenes, fear and disgust-inducing scenarios, and pictures with neutral content.  While there was minimal difference between the verbal reactions of fear and disgust reported by both men and women, the female participants showed increased disgust-related facial activity.  In other words, they were not able to hide their feelings.

Data from the British Adult Dental Health Survey showed almost 50% of all adults were moderately to extremely afraid of the dentist.  Dental Advisor at the British Dental Health Foundation, Karen Coates, believes this information should be comforting to those who suffer from dental phobia.  After all, they can rest assured that they are not alone, and fortunately, more and more dentists are acknowledging this very common anxiety.  As long as the patient is willing to discuss their fears with their dental health professional, steps can be made to make routine visits to the dentist more tolerable.  Simple steps, such as booking your appointment during a time of day when you feel best, listening to music during treatments, and/or agreeing on a sign that means ‘stop, I need a break’ with your dentist are ways you can reduce minor anxiety about dental procedures.  And for those who suffer from more extreme fear, relaxation and sedation methods are available from dentists who specialize in such fields.

Patients who experience dental phobia are more likely to avoid regular visits to the dentist, therefore can experience poorer oral health.  With growing research confirming the close relationship between oral health and overall wellness, it is crucial to practice proper dental care to maintain good health.  This includes brushing twice a day, flossing regularly, and visiting your dentist twice a year for professional cleaning and exams.  If you are in the Miami area and find yourself afraid or anxious at the thought of visiting the dentist, we can help.  Contact our office today to discuss your many options.

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