According to the CDC, 62 percent of adults in the US have visited the dentist in the past year. That means that almost four out of every ten people do not go. That is way too many people that haven’t been to the dentist in a while, or at all.
I never ask my patients why they haven’t been to the dentist, but sometimes they tell me anyway. The reason usually falls into two main categories. One reason is they went through a life transition and hadn’t gotten around to finding a new dentist or making an appointment. A lot of times, a patient in their 20s will tell me they haven’t gone to the dentist since they were living with their parents. It simply didn’t make the list of things they needed to do when they moved out on their own.
Another main reason people don’t go to the dentist for a while is that of fear. It can be argued that fear is the underlying cause for anyone who has not been going. Fear of the appointment, fear of what the dentist will find, fear of what it will cost, or just fear of going somewhere new and opening your mouth for a total stranger.
If you haven’t been to the dentist in a while and you know you need to go, here are some ways to get the ball rolling in the right direction.
Do Your Research
Take a look at the dentists in your area. Read through their websites and check out their reviews. Nowadays, dentists and all businesses can update their websites with whatever information their patients and potential patients are looking for. So do your research.
When you call or email the office, don’t be afraid to ask any questions you might have. Tell the person at the desk that you haven’t been to the dentist in a while and you want to make sure everything goes smooth. Ask about payment options and dental insurance. Even if you think the question is silly, ask it anyway. I can guarantee you that the person answering your phone call has heard their share of “silly” questions.
Take Steps to Help Make Sure You Won't Cancel
When your appointment is early, you will have less time to think about it during the day and cancel. Also, if the location of the dentist is convenient for you, it won’t seem like as much of a hassle. When you make an appointment, make sure it’s not going to be at a time or a place that will make you want to cancel, or worse, not show up.
Tell Your Dentist if You Have Fear
There are many levels of dental fear, and they all deserve attention. Sometimes just talking about it will help put you at ease. When the fear is more severe, your dentist will tell you about the options they have available to keep you calm. Different forms of sedation dentistry can help with any dental fear, large or small.
If You're Uncomfortable, Tell Us
From the first phone call to the end of your appointment, let your dentist or their assistants know if you need something. Even if you have your mouth wide open, signal them so they can make you more comfortable. If your dentist can’t help you feel comfortable after you tell them, it may be time to look for someone new.
Knowing there are a lot of people who are afraid of going to the dentist has become the driving force behind my staff and me making sure every single patient has the best experience possible. Going to the dentist doesn’t need to have such a bad reputation, and we want every satisfied patient to tell their friends that it isn’t as bad as they think it is.