Why are people avoiding dental visits?

There are many reasons that the patient I see daily share for avoiding a visit to the dentist.  The most common reasons I hear are: fear, bad memories, cost, lack of insurance, time, nothing is bothering them (no pain), shame, and it just was not on the top of the to-do list.

Fear stops people from doing a lot of things in life; avoiding the dentist is one of them.

Fear/ Shame

Fear and Trust are the two most common reasons I hear for avoiding the dentist.

Fear of hearing bad news. “I’ve found in my 33 years of practice that very few patients are afraid of the actual cleaning, but instead they don’t want to hear any bad news about their teeth or any dental problems.

Avoidance and denial are strong human emotions, which can play a role in why people don’t visit the dentist as often as they

Fear of getting lectured or shamed. Nobody likes to be lectured, especially about their oral health. If a patient has been neglecting their oral health, not brushing and flossing, they do not want a dental professional reminding them of their shortfalls.

The fear of a lecture is a persistent thought on the minds of many patients, and for that reason, they choose not to make or keep a dental appointment.

Fear of instruments.  Along with the fear of receiving bad news about their oral health, many people fear the treatment in general.  The reason that they have neglected their mouth was to stay away from pain. The fear of drills, sharp instruments, needles, and drills often keep patients from making dental appointments. Yet, staying away will now require several dental procedures are going to require those instruments to treat the disease.

Fear of the unknown validates how they feel about going to the dentist.  The good news is that dentistry has made significant advances in dental treatment, one example, laser dentistry which requires no Novocain (no needles). There is a plethora of information available regarding dental advances. Do yourself a favor and check them out.

Fear of visiting the dentist, Dental Phobia, is caused by various experiences that a person has experienced over their lifetime.  One traumatic experience can affect a person’s life; this is true for children and adults.   Simple talking to a dental professional may ease your fears. Find out what’s currently available.  It’s just talking, no examination, no treatment, just finding out what your options are can help curb your fear.

Bad Memories

Overcoming your fear of the dentist.  I know from personal experience that you can overcome your fear of the dentist. I had a bad experience when I was five, and I carry that memory with me to this day. Even though I have not had another bad experience since I do remember the experience, so I know the trauma that can be associated with the dentist.   As the Dentist was laying back in the dental chair, he put his hand over my mouth to keep me from crying and whispered in my ear.

This was a patient management technique called “Hand over mouth” used on children to quiet them during a dental visit. It had the opposite effect on me, wasn’t sufficient and I never saw that dentist again; but I do remember the experience.

When people have bad experiences the feelings, they had at that moment get stuck in their head. To this day, when you lay me back in the dental chair, I get a slight case of anxiety, it triggers the feeling I had had then. I know why I am feeling it so that I can breathe through it let it go because I understand where it is coming from.

You may not necessarily remember the experience, but you do remember the feeling and the emotions. It is the interaction between the emotions and the memory that cause the fear and the phobia.  When you acknowledge and understand that fear, you can work through it.

You can reset the emotion that is connected to that memory; for me, I needed to feel safe.  The moment the chair would go back, I would feel anxiety. It took a few tries to retrain my brain.  Don’t deny yourself the feelings; they are real to you. Sometimes just acknowledging them will alleviate them.   It may take finding someone to help you work through it.

Trust your dental professional: Because I do understand the fear and anxiety associated with dental visits, I am very understanding of the patients in my dental chair. I ask them to trust that I will do my best to help them through their fears and phobias.  I will talk with the patients and help them realize their fears and explain the dental office of today, i.e. relaxing music, TVs, massage chairs, and high-tech procedures that make dental care a much easier and less painful (sometimes painless process).  They key is to establish a good oral health routine and maintaining the health of your teeth and gums. Following an established oral health routine can eliminate the need for extensive dental procedures.  Trust in the process.

Cost / Lack of Insurance

I have found when talking to patients, whether they have dental insurance or not. Cost is an issue; and yet, I have found that most patients do not understand how their benefits work.

  • A recent survey found that 44 percent of people were not visiting the dentist because they don’t have dental insurance.
  • High prices are the major factor preventing many people from getting regular dental checkups.
  • On the other hand, 46% of Americans with dental insurance are not using the benefits they are paying for.
  • Not going to the dentist and maintaining health teeth and gums is what is costing them.


Time is another issue for patients.  We live in a busy world and may responsible for a lot of people and simply have too much going on in their lives to take the time to go to the dentist; others don’t want to make the effort to go.

  • “ I am just too busy to go to the dentist!”  If we don’t build routine dental visits into our routine, we will simple never get around to it.  Once we skip a visit or two, it’s out of our mind and out of our routine for taking care of ourselves.
  • Dental offices work so hard on reminding people and setting up their visits.  They know you get busy and forget.  They care about you and know what can happen if you forgo routine dental visits and don’t maintain good oral health.  It’s more than just wanting you to come into the office.  Your dental team cares.

No Pain

I am not having any pain.  There is a big misconception that you only need to go to the dentist if you are having pain.  Have you ever considered that by the time you feel the pain, you have a much more serious problem that could result in tooth loss and a  more costly dental visit.

Having an established, routine toothbrushing regime along with established, routine dental visits helps to maintain your gums, teeth and mouth.  The truth is, if you take good care of your teeth and mouth, yearly dental visits won’t cost a ton of money. Preventative visits are covered.

Not on the top of my “To Do List”!

I don’t know how many times I have heard, “I know I should go to the dentist more often, but I have a lot of things to do and going to the dentist just isn’t at the top of my list!”  This is an extremely disheartening statement for any dental health care professional. We go into the dental field knowing the importance of good oral health and we want to make a difference.

The Health Mouth Movement and You!

In creating the Healthy Mouth Movement,it was my intent to educate the public that dental disease is 100% preventable. So, if you are one of the many that do not visit your dental professional on a routine basis, consider using this blog as your first step to change.

It is my goal to help you to understand the importance of putting your dental health care at the top of your “To Do List”!  By doing so, you not only put yourself first, you put your family first because you ensure that you are doing what you can to make yourself healthier.  You will set the example for your family to take care of their own oral health.

You will establish reasons to have good oral health habits.  You help others erase their reasons for not visiting the dentist on a routine basis. Their fears, bad memories, cost, lack of insurance, no time, nothing is bothering them (no pain), and simple that it isn’t on the top of their “To Do List” will slowly begin to disappear by your example.     You will be a catalyst for change.  You will be part of The Healthy Mouth Movement!