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Dental Fear Central Highlights National Smile Month 2009
From the 17th of May until the 16th of June 2009, the UK celebrates National Smile Month. But the advice given by the British Dental Health Foundation is unlikely to bring a smile to the faces of dental phobia sufferers.
The campaign is run simultaneously in the UK and USA by the British Dental Health Foundation, in partnership with Oral Health America. It centers on the importance of brushing, cutting down on the frequency of sugar intake, and regular visits to the dentist.
While the Foundation's advice of seeing your dentist regularly may seem simple and straightforward, it is anything but easy to follow for the large number of people who avoid dentists due to extreme dental phobia and anxiety. As a spokesperson for Dental Fear Central, the UK's largest dental phobia self-help organisation, says, "There are a large number of people for whom just the thought of seeing a dentist provokes extreme anxiety and panic. Some of them have had traumatic experiences with dentists in the past, especially during their childhood or teenage years. Others fear the loss of control they experience in the dental chair. Dentists are still viewed as authority figures by many, who feel totally helpless and at the mercy of the dentist. Others still have very specific fears, for example a fear of injections or the drill. A fear of gagging and being sick is also quite common. Some people may have been sexually, physically or emotionally abused in the past and these memories come back in the dental chair, which reminds them of the abuse situation. Other people are may suffer with panic disorder or other anxieties and this anxiety may carry over into the dental environment."
Regardless of the cause, dental phobia and anxiety can have serious consequences for sufferers. This not only includes the link of gum disease with overall body health, but also psychosocial consequences. Some people may avoid socialising or taking on a job which involves contact with the public due to embarrassment over their teeth. "Often, people with dental phobia would rather endure extreme pain from toothaches than see a dentist. This may come as a surprise, considering that any dental treatment is likely to be less painful than a bad toothache. But contrary to public belief, fear of pain is not always the reason why people avoid dentists. A lot of the people who visit our online support group are terrified of what the dentist might say - they fear the embarrassment and humiliation of being 'told off' for not coming earlier or for not looking after their teeth properly."
"The good news is that with the help of a supportive and understanding dentist, people can and do overcome their fears. There is now a much greater awareness among dentists of dental anxiety issues."
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Dental Fear Central is the web's biggest dental anxiety, fear and phobia resource, and has been online since 2004. The website receives more than 80,000 unique visitors per month and incorporates an online support forum.