How to Get Your Husband to Visit the Dentist
If your husband flatly refuses to step inside a dental office, you may think his attitude is based on groundless anxieties, but to him, his fears are likely to be all too real. Some people may have mild concerns about a dental visit but for others this apprehension can become a mental health condition called odontophobia (dental phobia).
Fear of visiting the dentist is a common issue. A report endorsed by the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine estimates that up to 15 per cent of Americans (about 40 million) avoid going to the dentist because they’re too frightened.
Another study, by the Dental Fears Research Clinic at the University of Washington in Seattle, found that three in four adults experienced some degree of apprehension when seeing their dentist – from being “a little afraid to absolutely terrified.”
A survey by the American Dental Association (ADA) concluded that women were more likely to visit the dentist and take better care of their teeth. Whatever level of trepidation your man has about visiting the dentist, there are certain measures you can take to help him overcome the problem. First, though, you need to understand what may be causing his dental anxiety.
Why is Your Man Avoiding the Dentist?
Apprehension about visiting a dentist can result in people putting off routine dental care for years or even decades. They’ll suffer through just about anything, including gum disease and unsightly or broken teeth.
One typical reason why people avoid the dentist is fear of pain, which is most common in those in their mid-20s or over, probably because they have bad memories of their early dental treatment, before advances in dentistry led to a greater degree of patient comfort.
Embarrassment is another reason for steering clear of a dental practice. Some people are uneasy about letting a stranger probe around in their mouth, an intimate area of the body, especially if they’re self-conscious about the poor appearance of their teeth.
Another cause of dental anxiety is fear of loss of control – having to stay still in a dental chair and not being able to see exactly what’s going on.
Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia
Dental anxiety and dental phobia are often taken as meaning the same thing, but there is a difference.
A person with dental anxiety will feel uneasy about an upcoming dental appointment because of unfounded or exaggerated concerns. Dental phobia is more serious, with the sufferer experiencing extreme dread to the extent of becoming panic stricken. However, both conditions share one aspect: they are caused by irrational fears.
So, whether your man is phobic or just apprehensive about seeing a dentist, you can help him to overcome his concerns by gently and tactfully guiding him toward the realization that his fears are, in fact, not based on logic.
Encouraging Your Guy to Resume Dental Care
Before initiating a dialogue with your husband about his dental apprehensions, you need to know what you’re talking about, so do a little research by taking a look around some of the online forums that address the issue and see how other wives deal with the problem. These platforms include Dental Fear Central, Dear Prudence, and Dental Phobia.
If it’s been many years since your husband set foot inside a dental practice, he probably won’t appreciate the ever-evolving advances in modern dentistry that place a strong emphasis on patient comfort and preventive dental care. Suggest he goes with you on one of your own routine dental visits. Simply being in the waiting room will help him to get acclimatized to the environment and, hopefully, start to realize there’s really nothing to be afraid of. You could also ask your dentist for advice on overcoming your man’s fears.
Explain to your husband in a calm and controlled way how his lack of dental care is making you worry about the effects on his long-term overall health. If left untreated, dental problems can lead to extremely serious conditions such as lung infections, cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Research indicates that parents can unwittingly transfer their dental anxieties onto their children, so, if you have kids, suggest that it would set a good example for them if he started going to the dentist again, and point out that if he shows a negative attitude towards visiting the dentist, your kids may react in the same way.
Discuss sedation dentistry with your husband. According to KidSmile Dental, "sometimes the dental chair is just too much for an individual and they might need something extra to help calm their nerves." Safe sedation, can do just that! With dental sedation, he would be given relaxant medication before or during dental work. Levels of sedation can be minimal, moderate or deep. If you husband is afraid of injections (belonephobia), moderate sedation is available by simply taking a pill (oral conscious sedation).
If you suspect that your husband has a severe case of odontophobia, he made need cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) from a professional to help him overcome his anxiety disorder. This therapy is based on helping people to become aware of flawed or negative thoughts so they can regard challenging situations with more clarity, enabling them to react in a more positive manner.
Let Him Know You’re There for Him
If your husband avoids the dentist, he has a higher risk of gum disease and tooth loss (resulting in the need for a dental implant), and may well suffer from poorer health in general, even to the extent of lower life expectancy. According to Implant and Periodontic Specialists, "Dental implants are the ONLY dental restoration option that preserves and stimulates natural bone which helps stimulate bone growth and prevent bone loss." So, please don't delay your dental check-ups!
Avoiding the dentist can also bring emotional problems. Stained or cracked teeth can make your man insecure and self-conscious. Some people can become so ashamed about how their teeth look that their personal and professional lives begin to suffer.
The good news is that today many dentists are experienced in dealing with fearful patients, and a variety of methods and treatments are available to lessen pain and alleviate concerns in the dentist's chair.
In trying to persuade your husband how important it is to visit the dentist, avoid being confrontational. Backing him into a corner by being over manipulative is likely to do more harm than good. Instead, demonstrate that you understand his problems and concerns, and tell him that you’ll do everything within your power to help him to get back on track with his dental – and overall – health.
Here at Smile Solutions Dentistry (your Las Vegas Dentist), we pride ourselves on helping our patients feel at ease during our dental procedures. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment!