CHANGING THE NARRATIVE OF
GOING TO THE DENTIST
Over the next few decades, innovations in dentistry will change the public’s perception of going to the dentist from a stressful, painful affair to a positive, painless experience.
BY JOHNNY COPE
Going to the dentist has been viewed as an uncomfortable, scary experience for a long time, and people often avoid dental checkups because of it. Even though many individuals need better dental care and feel a lack of self-confidence towards their teeth, they often hesitate to make trips to the dentist because of the negative stigmas towards dentistry. The fear of going to the dentist limits dentists’ business and prevents individuals from having better oral health. But in the future, advancements like lasers and genetic preventative care will empower dentists to change the narrative surrounding dentistry to one of a positive, simple, painless service. Being a part of this movement will be essential for dentists who want to thrive in a changing industry.
The Negative Narrative
Dentists have often been poked fun at in popular culture. In NBC’s popular sitcom, Parks and Recreation, a dentist named Jamm is constantly portrayed as selfish, cunning, and slightly sadistic. In the 2005 movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka’s father Wilbur is a mean, strict man who forbids his son to ever touch candy and unintentionally makes Willy want to run away.
Many people have negative experiences with dentists when they are young, fearing the menacing sound of dental drills and the seemingly invasive techniques used in dentistry. This negative connotation can be traumatic and can continue to affect individuals throughout their life. According to a 2016 survey, the number one reason why patients did not visit the dentist was because of fear (see figure 1).
The Need for Dental Care
People being afraid of going to the dentist is unfortunate because there is a need for better oral health care. In 2015, 82% of U.S. adults agreed with the statement, “it is easier to get ahead in life if I have straight, bright teeth”2. Yet, while many people recognize the importance of aesthetic teeth, 38% of Millennials said life was occasionally to very often less satisfying due to the condition of their mouth and teeth3. During the same year, 30% of adults in the U.S. rated their mouth and teeth as fair or poor as opposed to good4. The data shows that at least a third of adults in the U.S. are underserved in the dental care industry, yet many of them many not be getting the care they need because of a fear of going to the dentist.
Changing the Narrative through Innovation
Research in technology and the life sciences over the last couple of decades has laid the foundation for innovations in dentistry that have already started to revolutionize the industry. These innovations will continue to change dentistry into a less invasive, less painful, more preventative, and simpler process. Two of the most important innovations...