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    Research Shows Skipping the Dentist Could Make You Unhappier

    by Saunders DDS on May 10, 2017

    A new study published in the British Medical Journal shows that people who avoid the dentist, because of dental anxiety, tend to be unhappy and experience a poorer quality of life.

    This may be due to the fact that people who avoid the dentist tend to have more cavities. Cavities that are left untreated can grow so large that they lead to tooth loss, ultimately impacting the quality of a person’s speech, their chewing habits, and of course, their appearance.

    The study also found that people who had more cavities were also more likely to have other illnesses as well. This comes as little surprise since dental health has been linked to heart health in the past and recently, cancer.

    Here’s how skipping your dental checkup could result in more unhappiness and an unhealthy smile.

    Lack of Treatment Generates Anxiety

    The authors of the study found that dental anxiety is a vicious cycle for the people who experience it.

    For instance, those who have dental anxiety—a feeling of dread or panic when thinking about the dentist, making an appointment, or coming in for a visit—tend to avoid the dentist. The longer they go without treatment, the more dental work they anticipate needing. This, in turn, generates further anxiety about the perceived need for future treatment.

    Of course, this additional anxiety prevents them from seeking that treatment, thus leading to a cycle of anxiety and avoidance that can lead to poor dental health.

    Symptoms of the Patients

    The people who participated in the study and avoided the dentist as a result of dental anxiety had more cavities, increased plaque, and more gum bleeding than people who regularly see their dentist.

    There were, of course, other factors that led to cavities besides dental anxiety. According to the study of almost 11,000 people, the presence of cavity forming plaque was most likely found in men who brushed their teeth irregularly.

    The patients who reported dental anxiety—slightly less than 4,000 people—were also more likely to have missing teeth. Ironically, missing teeth were also associated with being female as well as being advanced in age. Furthermore, we know age is a risk factor for gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss.

    How Gum Disease Fits In

    Dental anxiety wasn’t connected to ligament damage that dentists often see with advanced periodontal (gum) disease. However, the study did find that not using floss was a factor in ligament damage.

    Bleeding from the gums, another symptom of gum disease, was found to be less of an issue among the patients who reported regularly flossing their teeth.

    Quality of Life in Those with Dental Anxiety

    The study found that there was a “significant relationship” between people who reported having dental phobia and people who acknowledged a negative impact on their quality of life as a result of poor dental health.

    This is likely because people with dental anxiety are more likely to have one or more missing teeth or decayed teeth. This is unfortunate because these people avoid the dentist despite the fact that tooth decay is preventable.

    Although previous research suggests a correlation with patients who report dental anxiety and those who have gum disease, no such correlation was found in this study. This could be because some of these patients who experience dental anxiety try and care for their teeth with the hope of avoiding dental visits.

    The Impact

    Your smile affects your life in more ways than you think. Imagine if every time your reaction to smile, laugh, or speak was immediately followed by anxiety about someone seeing your missing tooth.

    From eating and drinking to socializing with others, oral disease affects our lives. The well-being of the people in the study was found to be impacted by their resistance to seeking dental treatment. This includes their physiological, psychological, social, and emotional health.

    The study hypothesizes that people who have dental anxiety may also have general anxiety, which could lead to sadness, exhaustion, and discouragement. Being embarrassed about your smile can prevent you from fully participating in social events or your life in general.

    These patients may feel isolated, embarrassed, powerless, and of course, fearful of visiting the dentist. Everything from your work life to personal relationships can be affected by these feelings, which may result in poor self-esteem and negative thoughts.

    Help for Dental Anxiety

    Dental anxiety affects an estimated 30 million people or more in the United States. This condition isn’t uncommon and is handled with care at many offices, especially at your dentist in Asheville.

    When you find yourself avoiding the dentist because you’re afraid of the treatment you’ll need, the anxiety surrounding the dental instruments or the doctor, or even just because of financial reasons, know that there is help available.

    Dentists offer sedative dentistry options for patients who need a little extra help relaxing in the dentist’s chair. These include medications that can range from mild to heavy in order to bring you to your most comfortable level of relaxation.

    Talk to your Asheville dentist about your dental anxiety. Dentists like Dr. Saunders have experience in working with people who either haven’t been to the dentist in a long time or are afraid to let anyone work in their mouth.

    The more time you go without a dental exam, the more you risk compromising your smile with conditions that could be easily prevented or treated.

    How to Take the Best Care of Your Teeth

    Scheduling a professional teeth cleaning every six months is easy and can help prevent many dental problems that dentists commonly see today.

    If you have dental anxiety and find that you just can’t make it to the dentist as often as you should, take the best possible care of your teeth at home. This will ensure your smile is healthy, but it’ll also prevent the need for any cosmetic dentistry when you come in for your visit.

    Of course, home health habits only go so far. Find a dentist who’s local in your area who has experience treating patients with dental anxiety. Visit the office or call and ask about sedative dentistry options. You shouldn’t have to avoid the dentist and risk your beautiful smile just because you’re anxious about treatment.

    Here’s how to take care of your teeth in between cleanings:

    • Brush two times a day for at least two minutes. The quality of your brushing matters more than the force or the length of time—brush gently and pay attention to the surfaces you cover.
    • Floss once a day. This can be anytime during the day, as long as you do it! Flossing helps to cover all the surface areas of your teeth and removes plaque and food debris that could otherwise cause decay.
    • Minimize your consumption of sugar. From sodas to candy to pastries, limit how much sugar you eat. When you do eat sugar, rinse with water afterwards—it can help prevent sugar from damaging your tooth enamel.
    • Visit your dentist, even if it’s only once a year. Your Asheville dental practice is a judgement-free zone. Come in and see us, no matter how infrequently. We’re here to help you take care of your smile!

    Since skipping your checkups with your Asheville dentist could impact your quality of life in a bad way, visiting your dentist office is looking like the safer option to avoiding treatment. Even if you have dental anxiety, come in and speak with us. We’d love to help you discover your beautiful smile again!

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