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New Zealand is a nation of ‘dentaphobics’ with many Kiwis saying they would rather bump into an ex-partner, be caught with their fly undone or walk out of a bathroom with toilet paper stuck to their shoe than visit the dentist according to a new survey.
The Oral-B Dentaphobia study investigated the oral health habits of New Zealanders and what causes our fear of dentists.
The survey showed that along with avoiding dental appointments, those Kiwis that do eventually show up, lie to their dentists and a third (33%) of Kiwi women would rather keep an appointment for a pap smear than visit their dentist.
One quarter (25%) of Kiwis surveyed said they would prefer to bump into an ex-partner than attend a dental appointment, more than a fifth (21%) said they’d rather be caught with food stuck in their teeth and 17% said they would rather be caught with their fly undone.
So desperate are they to avoid seeing the dentist that more than one in eight respondents (13%) said they would rather commit the ultimate social faux pas of walking out of a bathroom with toilet paper stuck to their shoe.
Anxiety or ‘dentaphobia’ levels are generally high when visiting a dentist with seven out of 10 (71%) of women and six out of 10 (59%) men admitting to feeling either somewhat or extremely anxious about going to the dentist.
Respondents were asked which aspects of their trip to the dentist were likely to cause anxiety: the most common answer provided by nearly two thirds (65%) of respondents was ‘the likely cost if there is anything wrong’, a further third (34%) said the needles, drills or the pain.
In addition a third (31%) said they were anxious that their dentist might find a serious problem – with nearly one fifth (18%) saying not knowing what the dentist is going to do and criticism from the dentist about their oral hygiene made them anxious about keeping their appointment.
Interestingly many Kiwis also admitted to not being completely truthful with their dentists. The most common ‘white lie’ told to dentists by respondents is they brush their teeth for two minutes, twice a day with more than one sixth (17%) of those surveyed admitting to this.
New Zealanders weren’t just dishonest about the amount of time they brushed for either. More than an eighth (14%) said they told their dentists they floss regularly when they didn’t and 6% lied when they said their last check-up was 6 months ago.
Auckland dentist Dr Phil Brake says he’s frequently lied to by his patients who tell him “tall tales” about their oral hygiene habits.
“I’ve heard it all, one patient told me he’d brushed his teeth only that morning yet they were covered in muck and had yesterday’s lettuce wedged in between them,” he says.
Dr Brake says he continues to be astounded by the number of people who avoid dental care and was not surprised by the lengths some Kiwis will go to in order to avoid it.
“I’ve had female patients say to me they’d rather give birth than have a dental treatment! I believe a fear of dentists originates from dread passed on by parents to their children. Dentists and dentistry has changed enormously in the past 20 years, techniques, materials and attitudes have all greatly improved,” says Dr Brake.
More than one quarter (27%) of respondents said their last dental visit was in the past 6 months, a fifth (20%) said it was between 6-12 months ago, a further fifth (20%) said their last visit was 1-2 years ago, with more than a third saying their last dental visit was more than 3 years ago or never.
Half of those (50%) surveyed said they delayed visiting the dentist with more than a sixth (17%) saying they avoided appointments because they felt anxious. A further 17% of respondents said they had a hatred of dental visits with a third (29%) saying they only went when they had a problem.
Six percent of those surveyed said they didn’t attend dental visits because they found it hard to get time off work.
Dr Brake says not having enough time to attend a dental visit is simply not acceptable.
“Two hygiene visits a year is less cost than a good meal at a restaurant, dental problems never go away, they only escalate.”
He says annual dental check-ups with six monthly hygiene appointments and brushing and flossing between appointments is essential for good oral health.
The Oral-B Dentaphobia study was launched in conjunction with the new Oral-B TriZone 3000 power toothbrush which boasts the ultimate cleaning technology, combining the familiar brushing motion of a manual brush with the triple-action, deep-clean technology of a power brush.