As effective as proper oral care can be to the overall well-being of an individual, if you ask the average person when their last dental visit was, chances are it’s been a while. There are of course varying reasons as to why this is such a common occurrence, but are any of them really logical? After all, taking care of your health is more than just eating right and exercising on the regular basis. It’s also about making sure that you see the appropriate medical professionals periodically to ensure that everything is working as it should. Just as missing an oil change on the car could leave you sitting on the side of the road, missing a dental appointment could leave you in poor condition.
The question still remains, what is it that keeps so many people from getting the help that they need from the dentist? More importantly, what can be done to remedy this?
- Dental Anxiety or Fear
According to WebMD, approximately 5-8% of individuals will skip out on the dentist altogether simply because they’re afraid. Dental anxiety is a real condition and it affects many. Whether they have a horrible experience in the past, or have simply heard stories from others, many will shy away from seeking treatment just to avoid the experience.
For Patients: There is nothing to be ashamed of in this instance. If you have a real fear of going to the dentist, you should not let this keep you from maintaining proper oral health. The best thing you can do in this scenario is talk with your dentist about your fears. Many dentists are aware of the anxieties and phobias that are out there and will do whatever they can to accommodate your fears.
For Dentists: The best thing you can do to ensure your patients’ comfort level is to treat every patient as if they have a fear or phobia. Pay attention to their needs, communicate when necessary, and celebrate them for being brave. Sensitivity training for your staff is also beneficial as your patients will feel welcomed from the moment they walk in the door.
- High Out of Pocket Expense
Whether insured or uninsured, the price tag for a dental procedure is often huge; something as simple as an x-ray and a cleaning can cost hundreds of dollars. Many patients, especially those without dental insurance or on a tight budget, avoid going for fear of having to pay too much to get treated. Many dental offices require large upfront payments and only offer financing to patients with stellar credit – which in many cases is not many people.
For Patients: If you are afraid that the dental costs will be too high, it is best to look around for dentists that offer flexible payment arrangements or discounted services. Many dentists have options that allow you to make monthly payments, or even sign up for preventative care insurance for a low fee which would take care of your annual cleanings and basic dental needs.
For Dentists: Of course you can’t go slashing your costs as you do need to make a living, however, finding ways to be more flexible with your patients and dental costs is beneficial to your practice. Look for low cost insurance options, dental discount programs, or even offer flexible payment arrangements for higher costing procedures.
- Lack of Knowledge
Another reason people stay away from the dentist is because their misinformed. Many might be under the assumption that as long as they brush their teeth and floss twice a day that they never need to set foot inside of a dentist office. Unfortunately, this is not the case as some oral conditions don’t show any symptoms and can be detrimental to your health.
For Patients: The best way to stay on top of your health is to be informed every step of the way. Talk to your dentist about providing you with information on the importance of oral health and various oral conditions that need to be treated right away. Knowing the consequences for not seeing the dentist on the regular basis can easily provoke you to schedule an appointment.
For Dentists: Solution Reach, a company that provides technological solutions for medical facilities, suggests that the best way to build patient relationships is through patient education. By providing your patients with up to date information as it pertains to their specific oral health, you will encourage them to keep their appointments.
The bottom line is that oral health is essential to overall health. Both patients and dentists play a crucial role in making sure that the best oral health is achieved. Patients must learn to communicate effectively with their dentists about their fears, anxieties, financial woes, and lack of knowledge. Dentists on the other hand need to improve their level of sensitivity, provide flexible options for all economic backgrounds, and communicate effectively in providing pertinent information to their patients. In doing this together, it is almost certain that the “dentist office visit” will no longer be taboo.