Could COVID-19 make dental patients even more afraid of going to the dentist?

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Around half of UK adults are anxious about going to the dentist, but dentists are worried that figures could increase after the COVID-19 crisis. 

Dr Catherine Tannahill, director of clinical dentistry at Portman Dental Care, explained that around 50% of adults already experience a degree of fear when faced with a trip to the dentist, with approximately 6% of patients suffering from dentophobia. In light of the lockdown, dentists are worried that patients will be even more anxious when the time comes to make an appointment. The crisis will have undoubtedly exacerbated existing fears and made people nervous about going out of the house, and some may feel that they can’t face going to a dental clinic. For those who have been working to overcome dentophobia, the lockdown may also have been a setback, especially for those who have needed urgent care while their normal practice has been closed. Getting used to an environment and a familiar face can make all the difference, and a new experience could cause anxiety levels to rise. 

Another concern for Dr Tannahill and her colleagues is the time between appointments for anxious patients. Often, once patients get into the habit of going to the dentist regularly, they start to feel more comfortable. At the moment, appointments are limited and it’s likely that patients will have to wait longer to see a dentist. Although this may be the case, Dr Tannahill is urging patients who need an appointment to contact their local dentist and to avoid leaving it too long if they are feeling nervous. Dental teams are currently working extremely hard to make patients feel safe and to reach out to those who may be reluctant to visit as a result of dentophobia.

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