Overcoming fear of the dentist starts at childhood

Parents should take children for regular dental check-ups, focus on prevention of tooth decay and instil good oral hygiene habits from an early age to avoid fear of dental visits in later life, according to a top SA dentist.

Dr Marc Sher says the main cause of dental anxiety in adults stems from a traumatic childhood experience in the dental chair. “If regular check-ups are done at a young age and if good oral hygiene habits and prevention is the focus, this will create a favourable dental experience, leading to less fear and anxiety as an adult.”

Sher recommends taking children for their first dental visit around three-years-old, once all the primary teeth have erupted. “This will acclimatize them to the dental environment. Following this, I recommend a visit once a year until about six years old. When adult (secondary) teeth start erupting, visits should increase to six-monthly with oral hygiene built in.”

Sher says a standard adult regime involves at least two oral hygiene visits per year, combined with one full dental assessment with x-rays. “Certain conditions may, however, warrant more frequent cleanings and check-ups to avoid the onset of aggressive dental conditions”.

Sher says adults may avoid gum disease (gingivitis) — swollen, and bleeding gums – with regular dental cleanings and check-ups. “If this condition is left untreated, a more sinister disease (periodontitis) of the underlying bone can occur. Another common conditions is dental caries (decay) which, if left untreated, can lead to root canal treatment or removal of a tooth.”

Sher recommends the following additional tips for optimal oral hygiene:

  • Use a soft bristled electric toothbrush, firm enough to remove plaque but not to hurt gums.
  • Choose toothpaste with fluoride as it helps prevent cavities and repair tooth enamel.
  • Brush your teeth moderately for at least two minutes twice a day.
  • Flossing helps remove plaque in places your brush can’t reach.
  • Follow a healthy diet, drink lots of filtered water and supplement with a good multi-nutrient like Marcus Rohrer Spirulina (marcusrohrerspirulina.com).
  • Avoid a stressful lifestyle which may contribute to mouth ulcers. Use Bye Mouth Ulcer for a pain free solution to ulcers (byemouthulcer.com).
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