Two thirds (67%) of Brits admit to having anxiety when it comes to visiting the dentist for a check-up, according to new research.

The poll, conducted by the Oral Health Foundation and Oral-B, shows that a third of us fear pain and discomfort, which is the biggest single reason behind our nerves (33%). One in four are worried about the cost of dental treatment (26%) while others are apprehensive about being told off by the dentist (8%).

The research also found that women are slightly more nervous than men about an upcoming visit to the dentist, while those aged between 45- and 54-years-old were the most fearful group.

Dental anxiety

As part of National Smile Month, campaigners are looking to reassure the public that there is no reason to be nervous about dental visits.

Here, Dr Uchenna Okoye, Oral-B ambassador and clinical director at London Smiling Dental Group, gives five effective ways in which any concerns can be eliminated.

1. Communication is key

The first way to address any worry over pain is simply to speak to your dentist about your anxiety.

Dentists are well trained to deal with anxious patients and will take their time to make sure patients are at ease before any treatment. Speak to friends and family to see who they trust and recommend, and make sure you find a dentist who is most likely to put you at greater ease.

2. Ease your way into treatment

By making regular visits to the dentist, you can become more familiar with the surroundings. This will make you more comfortable if you do eventually need treatment. Start gradually with a check-up and clean and polish, then work up to more extensive treatment once trust and rapport has been made with the dentist.

Agree a ‘stop now – I need a break’ sign with the dentist. It can be as simple as pointing your finger, and will help you feel more in control.

3. Be an early bird

Picking an appointment time early in the morning can do wonders, as it means you have less time to dwell on any worries.

Also, take a friend or family member to the appointment. The dentist won’t mind if they accompany you throughout the check-up or treatment and they can reassure and support you along the way.

4. Music makes us more mellow

Try taking a personal stereo to listen to music during the visit. I’ve had plenty of patients who enjoy listening to their favourite soundtracks during appointments and it really does help put them at ease, taking their mind off any worries.

5. Prevention is better than the cure

Finally, and the best way to overcome any dental anxiety, is simply to look after your oral health.

It’s important to understand that more than 90% of dental problems are entirely avoidable with a good oral health routine – and prevention is much better than treatment. Simple behaviour, such as using a powerbrush to clean teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, is a very simple and highly effective way to remove all the harmful bacteria from the mouth.

It only takes a few minutes each day and will help protect you from most oral health problems.

National Smile Month

National Smile Month kicked off on Monday 15 May and will continue until 15 June. It aims to actively engage us with our own oral health in a bid to change the way we think about managing our mouth health.

Dr Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said: ‘National Smile Month is the perfect time to reassess our oral health routine and really think about how we care for our mouth.

‘A healthy smile does not just help maintain good oral health but has much wider implications. Good oral health has been linked to a reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, strokes and even problems during pregnancy. Twice-daily brushing, reducing the amount of sugar in our diet and regular dental visits can play a major role in preventing and treating these problems.

‘Ultimately, the best way to avoid invasive treatment is always to take a proactive approach to our health. A dental check-up is now a little more than £20 in England so by going regularly, every two years, it’s a relatively small price to pay to ensure our teeth are in tip-top condition.

‘For those that are worried about any potential pain, modern dentistry has come a long way from the days of ‘drill and fill’ to a point where treatment is almost completely painless.

“It’s important to remember that by avoiding going to the dentist we may be letting previously small problems develop into something much larger, and could result in more invasive and costly treatment later. Visiting the dentist regularly, along with a good oral health routine at home, is the best and in the long-run, least expensive way in which we can care for our mouth.’