Dental Phobias Can Lead to Big Health Problems

Dental Phobias Can Lead to Big Health Problems

Even for patients that see the best dentist in Eugene, dental anxiety can present a real problem that can prevent them from receiving the care that they need. Even if the mere thought of a dental drill sends you running, you might want to reconsider how you feel about visiting the dentist. Dental anxiety caused by a phobia can damage more than just the health of your teeth, finds a new British study.

“This phobia can have a major impact on a person’s quality of life, including on their physiological, psychological, social, and emotional well-being,” states researchers from the King’s College London Dental Institute.

To determine the impact dental phobias could have on an individual’s health, researchers examined nearly 11,000 responses to the 2009 Adult Dental Health Survey. Approximately 1,400 participants stated they had a crippling fear of the dentist.

Dental Phobias Lead to Less Dental Care

Unsurprisingly, the review found that the participants most fearful of visiting the dentist were also the most likely to suffer from untreated tooth decay and to have one or more missing teeth. Researchers also found that dental phobias were also linked to a poorer quality of life overall for the study participants.

While most oral diseases don’t rank as life-threatening, the study noted that untreated problems like tooth decay, gum disease, tooth loss, and cavities can negatively impact an individual’s ability to socialize, speak, eat, and drink. When combined, these issues can certainly negatively impact an individual’s overall quality of life.

Furthermore, a growing amount of research in recent years has found compelling links between an individual’s oral and overall health. Studies have found that patients who suffer from oral health problems like tooth decay and gum disease have a significantly higher risk of developing a range of chronic health problems that include cardiovascular disease, stroke, dementia, arthritis, diabetes, and cancer.

While researchers have yet to establish a clear cause and effect between these types of systemic disease and oral health, a number of theories offer some insight. Researchers suspect that harmful oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream through small cuts and racks that develop on the gum tissue of patients with gum disease. Once in the bloodstream, this bacteria can travel to other areas of the body – such as the heart – causing inflammation. Inflammation is considered the root cause of most systemic health problems in the body.

Until this or other theories can explain what links our oral and overall health, it’s clear that receiving regular dental care is a vital part of ensuring our long-term health.

Overcoming Dental Phobias

One way to help eliminate dental phobias is to offer patients a comprehensive plan for preventative care they can practice at home, offers researchers.

“Ideally, we would want to help them overcome their dental phobia and attend the dentists, but in the interim perhaps we could be helping them take good care of their teeth themselves.”

By offering patients a detailed preventative dental plan, researchers have two goals:

  1. By teaching patients the best oral hygiene habits to use at home, researchers hope to offset the lack of regular dental care by promoting habits that help to strengthen teeth and gums. This way, even if a patient doesn’t receive as regular care, his or her oral health will be better overall thanks to these preventative steps.
  2. If patients enjoy better overall oral health, they’re less likely to need dental procedures that help to reinforce dental phobias, such as drilling to repair cavities and root canals to repair damaged tissue. Therefore, if patients enjoy easy, stress-free trips to the dentist their overall anxiety levels will drop, making it more likely they will continue seeing the best dentist in Eugene of a regular basis.

The study was published in the British Dental Journal.


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