Widespread Fear Of Dentists Still Deters Attendance

Widespread Fear Of Dentists Still Deters Attendance

New research by Bupa confirms that over half of adults experience ’severe nervousness about dental appointments’ with 76% of patients who suffer from dental anxiety putting off dental visits ’entirely’.

This news will hardly come as a surprise to workers in the dental profession. From initial new patient enquiries through to the moment patients are asked to take a seat in the surgery, most in the profession will hear words to the effect of "I hate dentists" on a daily basis.

An Inherited Fear

According to Bupa’s study, a leading cause of dental anxiety stems from childhood, with nearly two-thirds of those suffering from dental anxiety having a family member who is anxious about going to the dentist.  36% said this fear had contributed to their own dread. 

The study concludes that this fear then perpetuates a cycle of dental anxiety. 1 in 5 put off taking their children to the dentist and 38% of parents say their children are nervous about attending dental appointments. 


Bupa’s study says the reluctance to visit dentists has direct consequences for dental health with respondents enduring toothaches, tooth decay, tooth sensitivity and loss of a tooth or teeth as a result.

Over 13% of people have resorted to self-treatment, and 1 in 5 of those have gone so far as extracting their own teeth.  

The survey’s respondents were invited to rate coping mechanisms for anxiety. 

34% said they would be ’reassured by staff with knowledge of supporting patients with dental anxiety’, 25% ’ would appreciate ’calming music’ whilst ’a less clinical and more inviting environment’ was cited by 22%. 

Additional insight from the latest Bupa Wellbeing Index reveals that dental appointments are the number one health appointment the population puts off booking. 

Anni Seaborne, Head of General Dentistry, at Bupa Dental Care, said: “It is well-known that of all health appointments, many people dread most a visit to the dentist. 

"This is exacerbated by dental anxiety being passed on through generations. What’s concerning in this research is that dental anxiety in adults is impacting their own oral health as well as instilling unnecessary fear in children, which may dissuade them from getting regular and necessary care as they get older. 

“Oral health often acts as a window of health to the body, so it’s important that nervous patients prioritize dental appointments in the same way they do visits to the GP.

“We know that treating anxious patients can be more complex, as they may not always feel comfortable receiving routine care. Therefore, we need to reassure them that we’re in the profession because we care and want to help. We can also suggest new approaches to take towards their dental care in order to alleviate their fears and make the process easier.”

To help tackle dental anxiety, Bupa Dental Care has launched a video series of clinical advice in partnership with mental health platform, Just Ask a Question (JAAQ). 

The videos are designed to help people access expert information in a clear, non-jargon way to address all the common worries associated with visiting the dentist. 


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