It still surprises me when someone new comes to see me for an examination or consultation at my Edinburgh Dental Practice how often they start our conversation by apologising for the “state” of their teeth or for not having attended a dentist within the last 6 months, year or even longer. What’s even more surprising is that people who are anxious or scared are often the most apologetic. The tone of these chats also makes me believe past experience, the advice of friends or something else has led these people to believe that they are somehow going to be “judged” by the dentist when they do attend. Or reprimanded for the condition of their mouth and teeth.
If I had a bad experience and was as a result scared of the dentist it would make me want to avoid repeating the process. It is a natural instinct and genuinely nothing that you should feel the need to apologise for. Humans have finely tuned mechanisms to deal with stress or past unpleasant experiences. And one of the foremost mechanisms is learning to avoid situations that have not gone well in the past. For example, how many times did you as a child touch something that you were told was hot and would burn your fingers? ….not more than once or twice I bet…… Exactly, this is classic self preservation / learning in action.
So I can understand why people feel this way about their dental anxiety. Often their friends or family are able to attend for dental care. So the anxious or phobic person can often feel that somehow their fear is something they should just be able to “get over”. When they struggle to do so they feel ashamed and often assume that as time goes by their teeth have to be deteriorating. (An Interesting side note here is that in my experience many anxious patients look after their teeth extremely well to “compensate” for not attending the dentist and often have very healthy mouths.)
I’d suggest instead that anyone who has managed to overcome their dental fear and make that all important first contact with a dental practice deserves congratulations for overcoming their “natural” resistance to do so. What’s more at that first visit, maybe it’s the dentist who should be apologising to you on behalf of our profession for making you scared or anxious in the first place!
Just a thought
Have a great week