Letting a long-running fear of the dentist chair stop you from getting checked out can result in poorly cared-for teeth and gums, as well as a smile that isn’t looking its best. We can’t let the Americans continue with the misconception that we have bad teeth, can we?

Being scared of the dentist is very common – in fact it comes in as the third search term in google for ‘being scared of…’ – and has become a normal reaction amongst adults and children alike. Instead of six-monthly checks, some people go every few years when a problem occurs, leaving the gnashers to rely on the (sometimes paltry) teeth-cleaning routines of their owners…

Reasons for fearing the dentist include some (if not all) of the following things:

A bad experience from childhood

For some children, the distraction techniques of lollipops and compliments on good behaviour just doesn’t take away the memory of that tooth you had to get pulled out, or the braces you were forced to wear that caused pain and discomfort. In our formative years we take great stock in the experiences we have, and if they were not overly positive or were painful and scary, we’re sure to hold on to them.

Having fingers in your mouth

The thought of a stranger poking about your mouth with their fingers is just plain weird, but we’re supposed to accept this as normal when going for our check-ups at the dentist. There’s also the close proximity of that person’s face to yours while prodding your molars – about as comfortable as an eye test – that makes things just a bit awkward.

Scary tools and loud noises

The noises that come from a dentist surgery are enough to make anyone edgy, especially when drilling is involved. It’s hard to get your head around the fact that a machine is coming close to your delicate mouth and you’re letting that happen. There’s almost a sense of relief when the air compressor comes out to blast away all the tartar build up and enamel fragments. Now you can relax and gargle the pink water!

Another factor to consider is the negative media attention that dentistry has had over the years, with dentists seen as sadistic creatures who prey on unsuspecting folk. Some famous examples include Little Shop of Horrors and Marathon Man along with a horror film calledThe Dentist, which spawned a sequel called The Dentist 2: Brace yourself…None of which help you to think positively about your visit.

The best way to think about getting your teeth checked, is to liken it to other body maintenance tasks such as getting your hair done or getting your eyes tested. It doesn’t last long, and you feel better knowing that everything is how it should be. Also, if you look after your teeth properly, as per this guide from TV programme Embarrassing Bodies, then your visit should be as simple as a clean and polish. Even if you know things aren’t quite right with your teeth, it’s better to face the music now so that you can start to feel better rather than getting to a point where you are in pain.

Regular checkups are vital to you keeping your teeth for as long as possible. Bad dental care can mean you end up with false teeth well before you’re old and crinkly, making products such as Fixodent a regular buy at the supermarket…

Is there something about your teeth that you find embarrassing? Is it stopping you from grinning in photos and showing your teeth as you speak? A trip to the dentist can look at ways to help improve your confidence in your smile. And, although sometimes expensive, it could help to make you feel better about yourself.

Dentists are well aware of dental fear and if pre-warned about your nerves and apprehension, can make the visit as relaxing for you as possible. The NHS have guidance on how to overcome your fear of the dentist including picking a time early in the morning so you have less time to dwell on your appointment, agreeing a sign with the dentist to indicate you would like a break, and taking a friend for moral support. You can shop around for a dentist that you feel comfortable with, so that you find the experience less nerve-racking and who can make your six-monthly visits a thing of routine rather than feared and avoided.