The impact of dental anxiety on Brits
Visiting the dentist probably isn’t most people’s idea of fun, but it is a necessary part of looking after our oral health and can help pick up on potentially serious dental and medical problems early. To find out why people seem reluctant to visit their dentist, we surveyed 1,000 UK adults to get their take on it and found that a significant number of people experience signs of anxiety whilst waiting to see their dentist – enough to put some of them off seeing their dentist at all!
Scroll down to see an infographic containing many of the survey’s results as stats and figures. We have also included some other findings of the survey below, showing the impact of dental anxiety on many of our respondents and tips for managing this, so it doesn’t stop you getting the essential dental care you need throughout your life.
Please feel free to use this graphic on your website with credit and a link to the Dental Law Partnership.
91% of those we surveyed said they had experienced at least one of the below whilst waiting to see their dentist. They are all common signs of anxiety.
|Feeling restless or ‘on-edge’||52%|
|Feeling of dread||49%|
Dizziness or feeling faint
|Shortness of breath||10%|
When asked what in particular people disliked about going to the dentist, there were some regional variations, where people in certain parts of the country seemed to have a stronger dislike of some things than others. These included:
|What do you dislike most about going to the dentist?||National average||Area with highest %|
|Fear of pain||42%||North West – 48%|
|Cost of treatment||35%||East Anglia – 46%|
|Sound of drilling||33%||London -44%|
|Needles||29%||East Midlands – 43%|
|Bad memories of a previous experience||21%||Wales – 28%|
|X-rays||5%||Yorkshire & the Humber – 12%|
46% of those surveyed said that they’d had a bad previous experience at the dentist. These experiences are summarised below:
|What was your bad experience at the dentist?||National Average %|
|You experienced pain or discomfort during a dental procedure||74%|
|You experienced pain after you’d left the dental practice||35%|
|You don’t think that your dentist did a good job||31%|
|Your dentist didn’t put you ease||29%|
|You didn’t trust that your dentist knew what they were doing||23%|
|Your dentist was rude to you||19%|
|You heard another patient screaming, shouting or crying||7%|
Other experiences that respondents told us about included their dentist overcharging for dental work or carrying out unnecessary treatments, placing a filling in the wrong tooth, problems with administering anaesthetic or it wearing off too soon, infections and abscesses suffered after the treatment, an episode of fainting in the chair and one respondent even recalled a dentist that watched golf on the TV whilst carrying out their dental treatment.
84% of those who’d had a bad experience at the dentist admitted that it made them more anxious about going for dental treatment again. 28% even admitted missing or cancelling a dentist appointment since, directly due to their anxiety about it.
Chris Dean of the Dental Law Partnership commented: “It’s really important that people visit the dentist regularly to look after their oral health and catch any potentially serious problems early. Dental anxiety is a very real barrier to this and, sadly, we weren’t surprised by the results of this survey because we speak to people every day who have had a bad experience at the hands of a dental professional which has affected the way they feel about dentists.”
“Most dentists are highly skilled and always offer the highest levels of care to their patients, but when dental care professionals are negligent, it can have a huge impact on the patient; both physically and psychologically. We think it’s important that people know they are able to make a complaint when they receive dental care that is substandard, and they may even be able to claim compensation for what has happened to them.”
What can be done about dental anxiety?
The NHS website offers tips for those suffering from dental anxiety. These include:
- Finding an understanding dentist with experience of helping nervous patients
- Visiting the practice to look around before you join
- Picking an appointment early in the day so you have less time to worry
- Taking a friend or family member with you to your appointment
- Agreeing a signal with your dentist that you need to take a break
The survey of 1,000 UK adults was conducted in August 2019 by OnePoll, on behalf of the Dental Law Partnership.