One all too common reason that people avoid going to the dentist is the fear that the dentist will scold them about the condition of their teeth. Some nervously say things like “I know I should have come earlier” or “Is this the worst mouth you ever saw” anticipating that the dentist is going to reprimand and demean them. It is little wonder that people with these preconceived notions dread going to the dentist.
Sadly, patients usually develop this fear as a result of a misguided philosophy of some dentists who think they can “help” their patients by insulting them. Fortunately, most dentists realize that scolding their patients will ultimately backfire, because it tends to either drive people away or cause them to build up a barrier of resentment towards the dentist. I look at it this way; the patient is coming to me for help. He or she has likely had bad dental experiences in the past, was out of work and/or lost their insurance, was never educated about modern dental treatment, or is not particularly concerned about the comfort or appearance of their teeth. Whatever the reason, the important thing is that the person is coming in for dental care now.
People who seek dental care often come from vastly different educational, cultural, and economic environments. I have found that most dental patients fall into three primary groups. Some are not interested in saving their teeth, and just want to have a tooth removed every now and then when they are in pain. Others are highly motivated to preserve all of their teeth, and want to keep them in the best condition possible. Still other patients have never been educated about what modern dentistry can achieve, and become (with education) motivated to improve the comfort and appearance of their teeth. Ideally, the role of the dentist is to understand what each individual patient’s expectations are, improve their dental health, and then to educate him or her in how to avoid dental problems in the future. To achieve these goals, communication between the dentist and patient is of the utmost importance.
If you are ashamed about the condition of your teeth, take heart in knowing that most dentists do not browbeat their patients. That may have been common years ago, but is not nearly as prevalent today. If you are still worried about how a dentist will react to your mouth, try to remember that a dentist has seen everything from black and broken teeth to no teeth at all. Your teeth won’t shock the dentist. If it does, or if your dentist insults you, find a new dentist. There are plenty of good dentists out there who do care about helping their patients.