Are You a Dental Avoider?
In my last post, you learned about the first 4 Patient Styles – the Happy Regulars. These people mostly enjoy visiting the dentist.
Now I’ll reveal the other 50 % of our general population – the ones who avoid going to a dentist on a regular basis. I call these the Dental Avoiders.
That statistic of 50% Dental Avoiders is hard to imagine when you seem surrounded by relatively healthy people. But there are large segments of our population that get by without dental care.
Years ago, I spent 3 years in Nova Scotia working as a military dentist. I saw young new recruits coming in from all parts of Canada. For many of these teens, basic dental care hadn’t been an option. By the time I saw them, there teeth were an absolute mess. It really opened my eyes as to what life could be like growing up in a small remote villages.
My point? Dentistry is a quality of life issue. You can survive without any teeth. You may not live well and you may not live as long, but you can get by.
Here are the remaining 4 Patient Styles. Does anyone you know fit one of these styles?
5. Anxious Avoider
Of all the Avoiders, this is probably the most common one. Lots of people feel anxious about going to the dentist. Some stop going for that reason.
That first phone call can be the hardest step of all.
Some people have had unpleasant dental experiences in the past, and some have just let things go for too long. Now they feel anxious, vulnerable an overwhelmed at the thought of going to a dentist.
Avoidance can compound the anxiety. The hurdle is big enough without the extra stress of starting a relationship with a completely new dentist. That first phone call can be the hardest step of all.
Trust is the antidote to anxiety. Once people can gain some trust, it’s amazing how much better they begin to feel. That insurmountable barrier vanishes and people start feeling hopeful about their dental future – perhaps for the first time in ages.
6. Embarrassed Avoider
This is a common situation. Someone hasn’t been to a dentist for a while and has been reluctant to return. It’s not fear holding them back. They feel embarrassed about their situation, and guilty for not going sooner.
Maybe it was financial trouble that stopped them at first. Now they just feel stuck – reluctant to “face the music.” So they continue on in an avoidance pattern.
Negative emotions are powerful and people dread feelings of embarrassment and guilt. It’s one of the main reasons why so many people fear public speaking.
7. Victimitis Avoider
These people are habitual avoiders. They tend to play out a victim role in any scenario. They hold on to their victim stories – ones that continually paint themselves as unfairly treated.
Playing the victim role is very addictive. It’s a cover-up. A dodge
As long as they can hold onto their story, they feel justified in staying where they are, and feel justified in their wrath.
These people transfer responsibility away from themselves and engage in something called the Drama Triangle.
Playing the victim role is very addictive. It’s a cover-up. A dodge. They’re trying to squirm out of something. As long as a chronic victim can find others willing to buy into their victimized version of a story, they can keep on spinning it for gain.
These people are a dentist’s nightmare. They tend to need lots of dentistry. Their mouth full of problems mostly stems from their own neglect, but they’ll continue to blame every dentist they’ve had.
It’s a huge red flag when I hear that kind of talk. Some people are experts at blaming, complaining and excuses. I know this person isn’t taking any responsibility for their dental condition, and I don’t want to be next on their hit list of people to blame.
8. Anti-Dental Avoider
Ability to access dental care is directly related to socio-economic status, but for some people avoiding the dentist isn’t a money issue. It’s an attitude issue. Some place low value on dental health. These people have no interest in preventive care and only go to a dentist when they’re in crisis mode.
Teenagers were coming in from small villages where people couldn’t afford dental care
This pattern can occur with people from different cultures and from small rural communities. Some people have grown up ignoring their dental health. That’s what their family did. Sometimes that’s what their entire village did.
There are distinct gender differences with this pattern. Most women are more health conscious. Men are far more prone to be anti-dental avoiders.
We don’t see many of these people at our office, as we don’t really cater to that emergency-only level of care. When I worked in the military, I saw lots of it. These teenagers were coming in from small villages where people couldn’t afford dental care and just didn’t know anything except extractions and full dentures.
Things changed dramatically once they were exposed to different thinking and a higher level of care. I could talk to them until I was blue in the face, but it was usually their new buddies that straightened them out. Once they knew the scoop, they got on board with a new plan that involved keeping their teeth.
The odd few remained anti-dental and continued on with the expectation of having all their teeth removed at an early age.
That completes this review of the 8 Patient Styles. Whatever your style may currently be, you can become one of the Happy Regulars. You just need to find a good dental home.
Stay healthy and keep smiling!
About the Author: Dr. Joe Bulger is a West Toronto dentist. He’s also the owner-founder of Royal York Dental – a respected dental clinic serving Etobicoke since 1950.
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