Fear the dentist? It’s all in your genes

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New research suggests that if you have a fear of a trip to the dentist, it’s most probably thanks to your parents.

Psychologists have found evidence that dental fear has its roots in genetic influences inherited from mum and dad.

This means that any dental anxiety may not solely be due to environmental issues, such as the smells and sounds associated with the dental surgery and very often cited as a reason for our dislike of the dentist.

This new study also finds that a fear of pain may be inherited, too, and that there is a crossover with some of the genes that influence dental fear.

The psychology researchers at West Virginia University believe this new finding may help to shape solutions in the future that will help to alleviate patients of their anxiety in the dental chair.

Evidence suggests that fear of the dentist can lead to untreated periodontal disease, with those of us who dodge the dentist also more likely to suffer bad breath, or halitosis as it is properly known.

Dental anxiety is pretty common here in the UK – statistics suggest that 36% of those of us who fail to attend the dental clinic blame fear as the main reason.

So, what are the main causes of fearing the dentist – apart from our genetics, of course?
1. Embarrassment – the longer we leave it, the worse it gets. We may have a mouthful of rotten teeth, gum disease or bad breath. Address these issues as soon as possible with a trip to the dentist. If left, scientific evidence suggests we could be facing other serious health issues associated with inflammation that go beyond the oral cavity or mouth, such as heart disease, diabetes and respiratory disease.
2. Terrible previous experience – unfortunately, it happens. It can only take one negative dental appointment to put us off for life. Book a consultation with your dentist or dental hygienist and talk through any fears or anxiety. Familiarise yourself with both dental professional and the surroundings. This will make the trip easier should you need to attend for treatment.
3. Losing control – it’s common for us to fear what we cannot influence and being in a supine position in a dentist’s chair is as a good a definition of that scenario as any! We all fear the unknown. Ask about the treatment, the tools, if it is likely to be uncomfortable for a brief spell, and what to expect post treatment. The more you know, the better you will feel about any procedures.
4. Pain – let’s face it, nobody likes pain. Talk with your dentist about having a signal for him or her to stop if treatment becomes too difficult for you to cope with. Obviously, a hand signal works best. He or she can then pause until you are ready to continue treatment.

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