Almost one-third of Irish adults would consider dental sedation before having procedures such as fillings and extractions because of their fears of going to the dentist, according to the results of a new survey.
More women than men said they would like to have dental sedation – 49% of respondents versus 39.2% – and combined, they made up 32.5% of those who took part in the Google Survey carried out for The James Clinic dental practices in October. A total of 42.7% said they would not like to be sedated at the dentist, while 16.6% said they would need to know more about dental sedation. The rest, 8.3%, were not sure.
Dental sedation is typically given in pill or gas form – nitrous oxide, or so-called laughing gas – and makes patients feel relaxed and at ease during dental procedures. It quickly wears off, and in the case of nitrous oxide, many people can drive themselves back to work or home afterwards. Dental sedation can also be delivered intravenously or as a general anaesthetic, although these methods are relatively rare and usually used only in complex and difficult cases.
Widespread Dental Phobia
Millions of people around the world suffer from dentophobia, or fear of the dentist – estimated around 4.6% of women and 2.7% of men – and many are afraid of experiencing pain during the various procedures that a dentist carries out. The James Clinic, which has practices in Enfield, Co Meath; Mullingar, Co Westmeath; and Ferbane, Co Offaly, commissioned Google Surveys to find out the extent of these fears in people around Ireland.
So severe is dentophobia in some people that they would consider not going to the dentist at all, even though they needed something done – a total of 15.8% of those questioned said they would put off dental visits because they were too afraid to attend. An almost similar number (14.5%) said they would try not to cancel dental appointments because of their dentophobia, but they weren’t sure if they would manage to go or not, and 7.3% said their fears meant they would just not go to the dentist at all.
All this meant that people felt their oral health was suffering because of their reluctance to attend dental appointments to have necessary work done. The survey showed that 12.3% held this view, followed by 13.5% who thought it was probably true; the same number weren’t sure either way. However, the majority of respondents, 57.7%, said they were not usually nervous or anxious about an upcoming dental appointment, while 18.6% were, 10.3% were “sometimes” fearful and 13.4% said they were “terrified of the dentist”.
A Different Impression of Dentists
Some poll respondents (16.2%) who struggled with fears and anxieties about dental procedures said that if they could have dental sedation, it would change the way they viewed their dentists and future appointments – saying they would be much more relaxed about it all. This would be “somewhat” the case for 22.7% of those who were polled, while 25.3% said “not really” and 35.7% said they were “fine with the dentist”.
James Clinic founder and director Dr James Hiney said the survey results showed that a pervasive, and largely unfounded, fear of dentists still existed in large parts of the population. But the good news, he said, was that people didn’t need to put off looking after their oral health when there were solutions like dental sedation.
“It’s hard to know where these fears originate; it may be horror stories from older people who had painful experiences at the dentist many years ago, when perhaps dentistry wasn’t as advanced as it is now,” he said. “It’s important to make people feel relaxed before they go to the dentist and during a procedure, and that’s why there are options like dental sedation to erase any worries and anxieties and make people feel calm. It’s great for the patient, and us, as we can get on with the work without any disruptions.”
For more information about this survey or The James Clinic, please contact:
Dr James Hiney
Director, The James Clinic