Are you afraid of the dentist?

How often do you go to the dentist?Photo / Thinkstock
How often do you go to the dentist?Photo / Thinkstock

New Zealanders would rather bump into an ex-partner or be caught with their fly undone than visit the dentist, a survey has found.

The online survey looked at New Zealanders' dental habits and explored the fear of dentists - known as dentophobia.

It found a quarter of all respondents would prefer to bump into a former partner than keep a dental appointment, while a third of women would rather keep an appointment for a smear.

Common social faux pas were also more popular than opening wide.

More than a fifth of respondents would rather have food stuck in their teeth, 17 per cent would rather be caught with their fly down and 13 per cent would rather be seen walking out of a bathroom with toilet paper stuck to their shoe.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, dentophobia was generally heightened during a dental visit, with seven out of 10 women and six out of 10 men saying they felt somewhat or extremely anxious about going to the dentist.

Nearly two thirds were anxious of the cost if anything needed fixing, and a further third were anxious of drills, needles or pain.

One in five admitted to being anxious about criticism of their dental hygiene - and almost as many said they lied to their dentist about brushing their teeth twice daily for two minutes.

The falsehoods didn't stop there, with 14 per cent lying about flossing regularly and 6 per cent lying about having their last check-up within the last six months.

More than a third said their last actual visit was more than three years ago, while less than a third had been within the last six months.

Dentists recommend regular check-ups every year, with hygiene check-ups every six months.

Half of the respondents said they delayed visiting the dentist, with almost a fifth avoiding appointments due to anxiety. A third said they only went when they had a problem.

Auckland dentist Phil Brake said he was frequently lied to by patients about their oral hygiene habits.

"I've heard it all. One patient told me he'd brushed his teeth only that morning yet they were covered in muck and had yesterday's lettuce wedged in between them.''

Dr Brake said he was astounded by the number of people who avoided dental visits.

"I've had female patients say to me they'd rather give birth than have a dental treatment.''

He believed fear of dentists originated from dread passed on by parents to their children.

"Dentists and dentistry has changed enormously in the past 20 years. Techniques, materials and attitudes have all greatly improved.''

The online survey of 1117 New Zealanders was conducted on behalf of Oral-B last November and weighted to gender, age and location data from Statistics New Zealand.

- APNZ

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