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Who's afraid of the dentist?

June 29, 2005 21:45 IST

Women everywhere are afraid to go to a dentist. In fact, doctors here say Indian women are 1.5 times more scared of going to a dentist than western women are.

It is not that men are not scared of going to a dentist, but they are less likely to admit, doctors say.

"Toothache is not gender specific, but going to a dentist surely is and it is primarily to do with various phobias and misconceptions attached to dentistry. In India, women are nearly 1.5 times more scared of visiting a dentist than the women in the West," says Dr Ajay Sharma, a senior dentist with Max Healthcare.

"Certain myths also pertain in the society about dentistry that it is painful, and there is deterioration in vision after tooth extraction... because of all this, women are more scared of going to a dentist," he says.

"Lot of fear factor is also due to personal bad experiences, or spread through word of mouth by others. But then this further aggravates the problem," says Dr Arun Setia, a maxo-facial Surgeon at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi.

Dr Setia says the incidence of dental diseases is very high in India. One or the other person suffers from a dental ailment. On the top of the chart are gum diseases and nearly 85 per cent of the population suffers from it. This is followed by cavities and non-aligned teeth problem.

"But going to the dentist is not on the priority list of most Indians, as they feel it can be avoided. In the initial stages, when the problem is not very severe, most of them avoid going to a dentist," he says.

The solution thus lies in going in for regular dental check-ups from childhood onwards and not be scarred of the dentist, says Dr Setia.

A recent study done in Canada by researchers at University of Toronto shows that although women are 2.5 times as likely to be afraid of dentists than men, men too are as likely to feel afraid, only they will admit less.

The study is the first ever nation-wide survey in Canada about fears and tensions regarding dental appointments.

Researchers found that fear in men often remains unreported.

It further says that nearly 1.5 million people may have cancelled or avoided a dental appointment in their lifetime in Canada. One of the main reasons for avoiding a dentist appointment might be pain, as 12.4 per cent wanted painless tooth extraction or treatment and 42.3 per cent wanted cheaper ways to opt for anesthesia.

"Visiting a dentist India is also more related to economics, than to gender. In societies, where women are independent, they visit the dentist even for a small problem, but in lower strata it is the men, who more often go to a dentist," says Dr Setia.

"And as far as elderly women from lower strata are concerned, they are least likely to be taken to a dentist, because of the cost factor," he says.

"However, these elderly can be seen in large numbers at free dental check up camps... all the old women come out of their houses, waiting in long queues for the free check up," he says.

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