Why do patients avoid the dentist? We hear negative statements from patients every single day in dental practice. Here are five things we hear all the time, and the reasons these objections should NOT keep you from routine dental care.
“I’m afraid of treatment.”
It is amazing how a single negative experience can change our feelings for a very long time. Many patients we speak with tell of one (or more) negative experiences in a dental chair. Mostly, this has to do with discomfort during treatment, and is totally unnecessary with good, solid dental freezing (which can be given in a very comfortable way!). Sometimes, the initial freezing we give is not enough to allow for comfortable treatment; I always tell patients before we start that if anything is uncomfortable, please let me know…and it’s incredible how some people won’t say anything even if it does hurt! Part of the onus is on patients not to try to “suck it up” (I tell patients there is no medal for bravery…ask for more freezing if it’s needed!), and also on the dentist to care enough about the patient lying in the chair to assure as much comfort as possible.
“I hate that noise your machines make!”
I agree with this statement, because I don’t love the noise (or the vibrations) either! With the use of dental lasers for removal of dental decay, in some cases the treatment of teeth can be much quieter and less jarring than ever before. For example, the laser we use sounds like popcorn popping and feels like tapping in the tooth. We still do need to use the usual dental drill for certain procedures like removing old silver fillings and preparing teeth for crowns (caps), but we recommend patients bring along an MP3 player loaded with their favorite music, and we offer noise-cancellation headphones for use during treatment. It really does help
“I have to postpone my appointment because I can’t afford it right now.”
Dental work can be expensive, and this becomes more true the longer a patient postpones “routine dental care.” I tell patients that routine dental hygiene appointments (“cleaning”) and a dental check-up are like oil changes for your car—spend a smaller amount of money on routine maintenance to potentially avoid larger costs down the road! Why is that? Surprisingly, dental decay and gum disease are usually painless and therefore the patient doesn’t know they exist! Your dentist can diagnose problems when they are small enough NOT to cause pain. The longer disease is present, the bigger the problem gets…and bigger usually means more expensive (and sometimes painful, which leads back to the first reason!). Dental insurance is a great benefit, if you have it…but I am telling you that the future of dental coverage is less, not more, and no insurance should dictate what level of health you choose to have! There are financing options available for all kinds and costs of dental care through Dental Card in Canada and Care Credit in the United States, and any dentist can be a “provider” for these services. You probably don’t pay for a car up front and in cash…and you don’t have to pay for dental care that way either.
“I hate waiting for appointments, I can’t miss work, it takes too much time.”
These are all lumped together because they all represent your time. We recognize your time is valuable, and so is ours. Just like you have a typical work day, so do we. Some dental practices offer evening and weekend hours, and there are patients who truly require that sort of arrangement. In our office, we do our best work when it is light outside, so that’s when we chose to schedule patients. Try scheduling an appointment before your workday, and work a little later, or during your lunch hour. Really…in most cases for routine care we are only talking about 2-4 times/year. We really try our best to run on time, but dentistry is unpredictable, and sometimes a procedure takes longer than anticipated. Or…the patient before you arrives late, so we run late for you. Or…we have an emergency (think broken front tooth, or extreme pain). Stuff happens, and we deal with it the best we can. Again…the longer you leave a problem or are unaware of a problem, the longer it may take to fix the problem. The old saying “Prevention is the best medicine” applies to dentistry as well!
“I never understand what’s going to happen at my visit.”
This is a problem easily solved! ASK!! Please don’t feel badly when you ask the dentist or dental team member to explain upcoming procedures, and why they are being recommended. I would always prefer my patients understand as well as possible what to expect, and my team and I are happy to explain again (and again) until you get it. If your dental team doesn’t seem to have the time or interest to answer your questions to your satisfaction, maybe it’s time for a new dental home.