In the 1996 horror film "The Dentist," Corbin Bernsen played horrifying oral surgeon Dr. Alan Firestone.
That role did more to fuel dental phobia than even 1976's "Marathon Man." Remember Sir Laurence Olivier asking Dustin Hoffman, "Is it safe yet?"
These days, 24 percent of adults have dental fear, and 4 percent have an outright dental phobia. And those feelings of apprehension and anxiety aren't at all entertaining.
If you’re among those numbers, you probably avoid going to the dentist even annually, and that puts you at increased risk for cavities and gum (periodontal) disease, which is associated with everything from chronic bad breath to Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
But a new study out of King's College London found that after five weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy, 79 percent of dentist-fearing folks were able to have normal dental procedures (such as cleaning or getting a filling) without being sedated.
The effect is not long-lasting for everyone, however, because many those with dental fears also have high levels of general anxiety (27 percent) and depression (12 percent).
For those folks, treatment with extended therapy (and possibly medication) is required to keep their smile good looking.
So if you can't remember the last time you had your teeth cleaned, find a practitioner near you. It’s sure to put a smile on your face.
Posts by Dr. Mehmet Oz, M.D. and Dr. Mike Roizen, M.D.
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