Brighter Smiles: Avoiding The Dentist?

Tuesday February 06, 2024

There are five major reasons that people do not get the necessary dental care they need. They are money, time, lack of concern, fear and trust. Let’s take a quick look at each one and see if any of them fit you and what dentists often try to do to overcome these obstacles for patients.
Although you may think that money would be the number one reason people avoid ideal dental treatment, it is not. Even in these tougher economic times, money, although a significant barrier for many is still not the number one issue for most. Yes, dental care in some cases can be a significant investment. With insurance company’s unwillingness to raise the bar, as I have talked about in previous columns, patients often get stuck with large dental bills.
Unfortunately, as of now, we have to face these facts and it should not mean avoiding the dentist. Many dentists offer payment plans so patients can pay for treatment over an extended period of time. Ask your dentist if they have such an option. The point here is to get a plan. Once a plan is established, your dentist can work with you to prioritize and sequence your treatment. This way, if you need to spread your treatment over a period of time to make it affordable, you can pick away at a well thought out plan.
Time is an excuse. We all use time as an excuse for many of the things in our lives we want to avoid or aren’t ready to deal with. The reality is however, if we place something high enough in our value system, there is always time for it. In order to move something higher up in our value system, we must become aware enough to realize that this particular thing is worth our time and other resources.
Lack of concern about dental health is the number one reason people don’t get the dental care they need. It is prevalent with a huge percentage of the population for a few reasons. Absence of pain is one. Other than a toothache and need for a root canal or extraction, there are few things that actually cause pain. An example is periodontal disease. About 75% of the population has some form of this disease but only 50% of the population goes to the dentist. Why? No pain. There are tons of people walking around with active decay who don’t realize it, and won’t visit a dentist until they are in pain. Changing an individual’s “lack of concern” is the most difficult barrier to overcome. There are many ways to help people at least become aware, to help allow them to re-evaluate their own situation. Writing these columns is one of the things I do to aid in awareness.
Some people have fear of going to the dentist….and for good reason, due to bad past experiences or misinformation. However, dentistry today should be a comfortable experience most of the time. For those who are still fearful, there are different medications dentists can use to ease anxiety.
The last barrier to ideal treatment is trust. For a patient to move forward with treatment, it is essential the patient both like and trust the dentist. While technical skills are important, I am willing to bet that you would not stay with a dentist that you did not like or trust. Find someone you can connect with and build a strong doctor-patient relationship.
If there are other reasons you avoid optimal dental care, e-mail me and I will be glad to offer some suggestions. Talk with your dentist. A two-way conversation about this stuff will foster a stronger relationship.
Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. He has a special interest in treating snoring, sleep apnea and TMJ problems. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have please email them to him at

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