You might be surprised why people don’t go to a dentist on a regular basis. Let us give you a hint. It is not because of anxiety or fear or a previous bad experience.
The number one reason? The failure to see a need! We could hardly believe it when we read this survey many years ago. This indicates a failure of our profession and health care in general to make a specific point of what should be regular dental visits to prevent the loss of teeth and keep the public smiling.
After reading about the public perception of the reasons why dentists want patients to return at least twice a year for maintenance and professional cleanings, we were really surprised.
What was the reason that Malaysians believed dentists wanted them to come in regularly?
One particular survey said because dentists wanted to make money. Colour me shocked. At first, anyway. Then disappointed.
As a dentist, we knew that we make precious little money from the regular maintenance care. The real reasons are because it is our duty to advise on the best possible care and regular maintenance every few months are part of that best possible care. Regular visits for preventive care is one the most cost effective ways to keep your teeth and reduce dental costs.
If one would really consider it, the profession of dentistry has been at the forefront of preventive care since the 1950’s. Many of us have worked without pay to ensure that community fluoridation was in the water supply, often against significant odds.
What is the number two reason that people don’t come to a dentist? A previous bad dental experience.
Many people see dentistry as a discretionary expense rather than a health care investment. Sadly, most just doesn’t know enough to make a good decision.
Let’s begin by discussing reason number two – the bad dental experience. As children, many boomers and older folks had a bad experience at the dentist’s clinic as a child.
Most children don’t think particularly clearly and or logically, and don’t understand most of what’s going on. But they do understand their parents, often one of whom was likely to tell them “not to be afraid” of the dentist.
So, what does a child do when it’s told not to be afraid or don’t worry? The child becomes afraid and worries. It’s no one’s fault. It just is.
At that time, dentistry was not as technologically adept, nor was it as aware of emotional needs as today’s modern dentistry. Dentistry was still learning a lot.
Our medical brethren were putting people to sleep for procedures for which we were using local aesthetics – often with agents that didn’t numb very well.
No wonder people didn’t like it. No wonder people had bad memories. Heck, dentists didn’t like it either!
Some still have those memories today. We’ve had many a patient enter my practice say, “Look, Doctor, I know I shouldn’t be afraid. I know things are different, but I just had a bad experience when I was a little kid » “Well, how old were you?” “I think I was 5.” This came from an adult age forty-seven! They’re illogical and they still continue to impact the life of those affected.
Let’s understand why bad experiences are remembered. When you have stress, you’re fearful or you have pain, the body secretes what we doctors call epinephrine, or what the public calls adrenalin. Adrenalin is the fight or flight hormone that prepares the body to either fight or flee. As a child, there’s not much you could have done in the way of fleeing or fighting. And your parents and the dentist were bent on getting you through the procedure.
That experience of anxiety, turning into fear, coupled with pain, mixed with adrenalin burned those memories into the neurons of the mind. Because they were burned in, they are still there. And they can be overcome. We help patients get past those early memories every day.
If you have had those bad memories, know this: It’s a new time. Old fashioned dentistry is gone. The dark times of imagined or real dental dungeons, where you never knew what was going on, it always hurt and the whole thing was difficult, are gone.
In dentistry today we work to make your visits as simple, and as comfortable as possible. Our materials and technologies make things far easier. And we have new understandings of how people think and deal with stress. We know how the brain responds to emotional signals, so we can be more comforting. The result is a very different dental experience than times of old.
Here is how you can participate with your dentist to make it a Positive Dental Experience:
• Tell your dentist what you want. Share what kind of things you’d like to see, and how you’d like your dental experience to feel.
• Ask the questions you want to have answered. It is only fair that you get your questions answered, right?
• Ask enough questions so you understand enough to make a decision.
• Don’t put off dentistry that you need to have done because it will cost you in the long run.
• Do work with your dentist as a partner. Give your complete health history.
• Tell your dentist how your dental visits have been for you in the past.
• Tell your dentist what you really envision for your smile and your dental health.
• Do understand that your dental decisions have health enhancing or disease enhancing effects on the rest of your body.
• If you’re a parent with a child, teeth have an enormous cumulative effect on their lifelong health.
• Tell the dentist if you need to get up and move around.
• Let your dentist know if you feel any discomfort at all.
• Let your dentist know if you need to use the restroom, adjust the chair, or get better support for your neck.
We all really want a Positive Dental Experience. It’s interesting, there’s no dental code for dental experience, yet a positive one can mean all the difference between a big bright beautiful smile and shunning dentistry forever.
Gratefully, it’s a new day. “It ain’t like it used to be”. Thank God. Welcome to the no lecture zone, no finger wagging, no reprimanding, treat-you-like-a human-being dental practice. They’re really out there, and one of the goals of this article is helping you find them.
Towards that end, one of the things we do at Dentist3 is design and decorate differently. What you see does count, as well as what you hear. We’ve created what we call an aesthetic design. What’s an aesthetic design mean? It means a design as it is defined by architecture, a place that feels good to be in. That’s why we designed our clinic the way it is, so it can feel right- like the right kind of space.
The Chinese have a name for this. They call it feng shui, a system of design that allows a person to feel comfortable and strong in a space. We even changed the smells. We removed the materials that don’t smell good.
We changed the taste of many of the materials. We’re not saying we’re a restaurant, but we do work to make the taste you encounter here as pleasant as possible.
Certainly, we work to have a light touch so your experience of working with us is as good as it can be. Your friendly gentle dentistry is one of our goals, as it is with all the better dental offices out there. Likewise, better dentists tell patients what they should expect during their visit, because being able to predict what’s going to happen, helps reduce anxiety or outright fear, and creates a more comfortable atmosphere for everyone. It gives one a better sense of control. We’ve changed our technology. We have all sorts of gadgets and goodies, all sorts of things that help you get more comfortable. We believe dentistry is better for it.
And just as importantly, we dentists have improved the way we communicate. At one point, dentists were so busy just trying to conquer decay that they had no time to work on the finer points of chair-side manner. But decay is not the problem it once was, which has allowed dentistry to become far more patient-focused and treatment to become much easier.
The right dentist for you should want to make your visit a Positive Dental Experience…so you’ll want to come back.
In return, today’s better dentists will:
• Explain what they do.
• Show you why they need to do it
• Go to great efforts to make sure that you’re comfortable by performing the most modern techniques
• Apply the latest technology to give you the longest lasting results possible.
Our job as care providers is to give you predictable, positive experiences. Your job is to help us by partnering in your dental experience so you can be comfortable, so you can be happy with the care that you get, and so you feel a sense of control over what’s going on.
We’re going to give you that control to the degree that you need it so you can feel comfortable.