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Dental Phobia: Women In 40s Most Likely To Be Afraid Of The Dentist, Study Finds

The Huffington Post     Posted: 03/20/2012 6:39 pm

Who's most afraid of the dentist?

According to new research, it's not the who you'd most expect. It's women in their 40s.

Ongoing research from the University of Sydney suggests that this demographic is more likely than other age groups to have felt trauma, abuse or oro-facial trauma. These people are also more likely to be depressed, anxious or stressed, researchers found.

"Dental anxiety is very real and complex and it should never be downplayed," study researcher Dr. Avanti Karve, of the University of Sydney Faculty of Dentistry, said in a statement.

Karve explained that people who have a great fear of the dentist wait 17 days, on average, to make an appointment to see the dentist when they are feeling severe pain. Comparatively, the rest of the population who is not as dentalphobic waits just three days.

According to a recent study out of the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, about 5 percent of people have a severe dental fear. Those researchers found five strategies that people use to get over their fear of the dentist; their findings are published in the journal Acta Odontologica Scandinavica.

Their study showed that common coping practices include distracting yourself (counting to yourself or playing mental games so that you think about something else), distancing (telling yourself the pain feels like something else), prayer (praying that the dental treatment will end soon), self-efficacy (telling yourself to be strong), and optimism (telling yourself that everything will be OK after the dental treatment).

New York City-based dentist Dr. Louis Siegelman, D.D.S., who works in private practice and also is a clinical assistant professor in pediatric dentistry at New York University, explained to HuffPost some common fears people have of going to the dentist, and how to cope with them:

1. Fear Of The Unknown
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When Siegelman receives a new patient, he often doesn't jump right into the cleaning or dental procedure in the first visit. Instead, he sits with the new patient in his office -- with the door open, so there's no feelings of claustrophobia -- just to talk, so the patient can get to know him first.

Siegelman said that other people with milder dental phobia can also ask to meet with their dentist first to help quell fears. While not all dentists may not have the luxury of time to be able to do this, it's worth asking a dentist before scheduling an appointment if you think it will help you feel more at ease, he said.
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