The number two dental fear patients have is pretty obvious, but may surprise some people that it’s not number one. I see it on the faces of many adult patients, but only the kids will actually blurt it out: “Is this going to hurt?”
At this point I’d like to relate a story about a survey I first heard about maybe 25 years ago. The survey asked people what their greatest fears are. Twenty five years ago the number one response was public speaking, not a big surprise there. Number two was going to the dentist. Out of curiosity I looked up the same survey recently and found that public speaking was still number one, but going to the dentist was not even in the top ten! Why is that? What caused this dramatic change in public perception over the last two and a half decades?
Quite simply, I think people have shed the idea of dentistry as a “necessary evil” and embraced the idea that dental care is an important part of their overall health and appearance. Instead of begrudingly showing up for their cleaning or fillings, people actually seek out dental care now. How has the dental profession participated in this paradigm shift in patients’ attitudes? By embracing new technology and new techniques that has made today’s patient experience vastly superior than even a generation ago. But the bottom line for most people is: the dental injection.
People know needles aren’t fun. But here’s the good news: by putting our focus on the best materials and techniques, we’ve been able to make the whole experience nearly or even completely pain free for most people. And here’s the better news: technology is still advancing at a rapid pace, and I expect the patient experience will continue to improve by leaps and bounds. I’m looking forward to treating a generation of patients who have never feared their dental visit, and I believe that generation is now upon us.
As far as the fear of public speaking, I don’t see that going away anytime soon.*
* Here’s my trick when speaking to an audience, don’t look at the whole audience, look at one person in the audience, as if you’re talking only to her or him. Finish your sentence, move to someone else and speak directly to that person. Speaking to an individual is much less intimidating than speaking to a group.