Do you avoid visiting the dentist?
If you’re worried about the cost, or anxious about dental treatment, you’re not alone. Tackling these issues head on is the way forward.
A recent piece of HCF research revealed that only 49% of adult HCF members with extras cover proactively visited the dentist for at least a check-up in 2016.
Getting dental check-ups isn’t just about making the most of your extras cover, it’s key to maintaining good dental health, now and in the future. The HCF data also revealed that dentist avoiders were 1.5 times more likely to need major dental work down the track.
While looking after your teeth obviously impacts your appearance, speech and ability to eat, there are also bigger health issues to consider.
There’s an increasing amount of evidence linking poor dental health to conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's and dementia. So regular check-ups may also reduce your risk of developing a range of chronic diseases.
Why are so many people avoiding the dentist?
According to a 2012 Adelaide University study, perceived cost is cited twice as often as any other reason (by 23% of insured people and 46% of uninsured people).
Apathy and being time-poor were also an issue (30% of dentist avoiders), especially amongst wealthier Australians, men and younger people.
While only 18% of people acknowledged significant fear, 65% cited some level of anxiety about going to the dentist.
Ignoring a problem until you’re in significant pain won’t lessen the cost of any eventual treatment. Taking care of your teeth every day and nipping any dental issues in the bud might.
Facing your fear
Given the potential implications of skipping dental checks, tackling anxiety or phobias is important.
Dentists who are experienced in treating fearful or phobic patients, and are sensitive to their needs, will often flag this on their website, so it’s worth doing some research upfront.
Being honest about your fear from the start will help your dentist to best prepare for your visit, so share any concerns with the receptionist when you book. There are various techniques, tools and medications your dentist can use to make you feel more comfortable on the day.
If you’re really struggling, behavioural therapy with a psychologist has been shown to be an effective strategy.
If you’re a parent who’s anxious about dental treatment, work with your dentist to ensure your kids have positive early experiences. Taking them for an initial check-up and a fun ‘ride on the chair’ at age 2 or 3 is a great start.
Good dental health starts at home. Here’s how to protect your teeth:
- Brush twice a day
- Floss every day
- Avoid sugary drinks
- Wear a mouthguard during contact sports
- Change your toothbrush 3 or 4 times a year
- If you smoke, try to quit.
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