Why do some people find the dentist’s office scary?

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People hate going to the doctor. Many people typically see hospitals as places for the sick and dying as opposed to places where they can get treatment and become healthy. Still others – depending on the country and healthcare system – see medical care as an untenable expense, preferring to ignore their problems until they go away or banking on their ability to simply withstand the pain or illness indefinitely. However, doctors are not the only medical professionals with an essential task to perform. Regular visits to the dentist are also essential for holistic physical wellness. Even healthy people should see a dentist at least two times per year, according to come professionals.

And yet, many simply don’t. Most people are afraid of going to the dentist, and about one in six people are so scared of the dentist that they don’t go at all. The reasons are understandable, if not necessarily excusable: dental work can be painful and expensive, and dentistry is a profession somehow separate from most other similarly respectable medical fields, with the overwhelming majority of dentists hosting their own private practices, as opposed to seeing patients in a hospital setting. It’s also likely that most people simply don’t see their teeth as an important organ in need of attention and care the same way they might see their heart or kidneys. Although teeth can ache as a result of lack of proper care, most of the pain is still felt in the dentist’s chair, a mental association not easy to be forgotten.

Of course, dental care is still important, and people should still go to see the dentist. There are a number of pieces of good news for people who care about their teeth but still cringe at the thought of an hour spent in the dentist’s chair. The first and most obvious is preventative measures. The best kind of dentistry is the kind that happens at home before a visit to the dentist is necessary at all. Regular brushing and flossing and good dental habits are complemented by a number of over-the-counter products that can help keep teeth healthy and prevent cavities from forming.

In the event that a visit to the dentist is still necessary, there are more reasons to feel at ease than ever before. Recent studies have espoused the virtues of “No Drill” dental work, showing that fillings are less important than previously thought, so even if there is an issue, it doesn’t necessarily have to lead to drilling. In addition to new research into dentistry, technological advances in other fields are beginning to effect changes in the way that dental work is done. New tech startup companies are beginning to develop approaches to imaging and diagnosis of dental scans using artificial intelligence in order to supplement dentists’ knowledge and expertise to ensure a more reliable and consistent customer experience.

New technological innovations are not limited to the dentists themselves. There are a growing number of apps that influence the way customers receive care and interact with their dentist at every level, from apps that help dentists share information with patients to those that help keep schedules and appointments in order, as well as apps that help children learn to brush their teeth effectively. While some may decry the encroachment of technology into personal spaces and even take over (or assist with) duties that lie squarely on the shoulders of parents, it’s undeniable that the wealth of new tools to assist doctors and patients alike could be essential in improving people’s brushing habits and dental health, as well as their relationship with their dental professionals.

It’s not just new technology improving patients’ experiences, either. Dentists who operate their own private practices are essentially small-business owners, and they are constantly looking for new ways to improve customer experiences, resulting in better customer retention and more regular visits from those patients. After all, the revenue to be gained from attracting and retaining those 15% of people who refrain from visits to the dentist purely out of fear is nothing to sneeze at. In that vein, there are dentists exploring the possibility of a spa-like experience. They provide bluetooth headphones, weighted blankets, massage chairs, heated neck pillows, and even Netflix in order to distract patients from the noise of drills and even the occasional pain they might feel during the procedure. According to patient feedback, the change appears to be working, and it’s easy to understand why. These new amenities may make a trip to the dentist even more comfortable than an afternoon at home on the couch – after all, how many people watch Netflix at home in their own massage chairs? Not all dentists are in agreement about the viability of setups like these, preferring instead to focus on quality care and service to their patients, but it’s easy to see luxury-focused experiences like these catching on.

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