The sad tooth: 6 in 10 adults are too scared to visit the dentist

NEW YORK — Feeling bristled? Imagine how your teeth might feel, especially if you’ve been putting off your annual checkup. If you have, you’re likely far from alone. A new study finds that six in 10 American adults are too scared to visit the dentist.

Researchers at Hello Products, a dental care startup, polled 2,000 adults in the U.S. on their oral hygiene habits, which led to some more-than-toothless findings.

Toothpaste on toothbrush
If you’ve been putting off your annual dental cleaning, you’re likely far from alone. A new study finds that six in 10 American adults are too scared to visit the dentist.

For instance, among the more stunning results, the survey showed that three in 10 millennials only brush their teeth once a day. Millennials also admit they’ve gone two or three days on average without brushing at all.

Yet, a convincing majority (56 percent) expressed fear or anxiety over losing their teeth, despite possessing slovenly dental habits.

“It’s crucial to take the right steps every day to maintain a healthy mouth,” reminds Craig Dubitsky, Hello Products’ founder. “This involves using effective oral care products, as well as being mindful of your daily habits.”

Going to the dentist was admittedly a phobia for most respondents — overall, 62% of adults surveyed said that they were too spooked to even visit a dentist’s office — but particularly among millennials, perhaps helping explain why their much-flaunted smiles appear to be at-risk. Millennials were more likely than those over 55 to create excuses to avoid regular dental checkups (56 percent to 36 percent, respectively).

“Going to the dentist has many advantages aside from ensuring you have pearly whites and bad breath prevention,” says California based dentist, Dr. Lawrence Fung, DDS, founder of Silicon Beach Dental. “Research has shown that there are many linkages to oral health and your overall health.

For what it’s worth, dentists were feared almost seven times as much as neurologists (9%), and more than twice as much as surgeons (26%). Fear of the dental chair was deep-rooted for many; the average respondent began to feel distressed by the age of 15, with many carrying feelings of unease before turning 10.

More stats: Three-tenths of those surveyed said they’d rather put in a full day at work than undergo a dental procedure, and a similar percentage said they would abstain from sex — for a month!

Two in 10 said they’d rather give a speech to a large crowd of people.

As for what tops of the list of dental visit phobias? Rounding out the top three were pain during treatment (74 percent), pain after treatment (47 percent), and the frightening noise of the dental drill (34 percent).

Negative past experiences (29 percent) and anesthesia-related fears (25 percent) were also common items of discomfort.

So how to make dental visits more comfortable? Do your research.

“While going to the dentist can be scary, some of the ways you can help alleviate those feelings is by seeking a dentist who truly places a high emphasis on creating a welcoming environment to make you feel comfortable,” says Fung. “When seeking a dentist, be sure to take a look at their bios and have an office tour to see if the place is welcoming.”

Put more bluntly, not brushing twice a day and skipping your biannual cleanings is sure to make you long in the tooth.


  1. Quit your crying and imagine your great great great grandpappy. Try have an extraction without anesthesia. Imagine a tooth abscess breaking out your check to relieve pressure and drain the puss. Thank God for modern medicine.

  2. Millennials this and Millennials that. If they are too stupid to take care of their teeth let them fall out. Maybe they’ll be able to buy their dentures from Amazon.conjob

  3. Yes, I am scared because ALL of the pain I have with my teeth are due to dentists drilling teeth that kinda-sorta looked like possible cavities (I regret agreeing to these meaningless tiny cavity fills). If a dentist sees anything dark or rough in your teeth they want to drill and fill it (regardless if the x-ray show nothing). Also, they really push teeth whitening. I think I would rather deal with a used car salesman over a dentist.

  4. Go to a teaching hospital tell them your poor ,they are very inexpensive and you might get in..

  5. I broke two teeth. I decided on implants. I will be forking over about $10,000 before the procedure is complete. A friend owns a dental appliance lab. He makes the crowns, and teeth for implants. He sells them for a fraction of what the dentist charges you for them. I hate it, but I need to keep my teeth and gums healthy so dentists have always been a part of my life since childhood. I’m pushing 70 and have pretty good teeth for an old man. Dental insurance is a joke. Glad I have a rainy day fund to help.

  6. 4 out 10 Millennials pass gas over 20 times a day and pick their noses 10 times a day. Important news.

  7. This is funny reading all your post about how expensive dentist are. Also to hear how uninformed you are about dental work. I don’t blame you guys because I have read a study in the past that patients only remember 22% of what was told to them by the time they get to their car after the first dental appointment.

    As for the expensive part of dentistry. It depends on the plan usually your employer picks or that you pick from the employer if you have multiple choices. I am an in-network PPO dentist. Those prices you quoted are very high and sound like you went to an out of network dentist.

  8. Being an in-network dentist I agree to lower fees from the insurance companies. Crowns are in the range of $664-$900 depending on which insurance. With delta dental insurance my crown fee is 664 which is a lot of my patients. Most average plans pay only 50% for major work(crown) your looking at $332-$450 for a crown out of pocket. Fillings are only $120ish depends on size and insurance pays 80% so your taking about 24 bucks for one filling.

    1. “Crowns are in the range of $664-$900 depending on which insurance.” You’re dreaming — or hallucinating. Sorry for being blunt but us Little People are NOT dental insiders…

      1. You must be going to an out of network dentist. As I said in a previous post. When your an in-network dentist, the dentist agrees to an insurance discounted fee. Not their UCR fee(regular price for someone with no insurance) for delta dental my contract is I can only charge $664 for a crown. To be blunt… it’s not $1500

  9. Fluoride rinse is only a buck at Dollar Tree. Brush once a day and use the rinse and you are on top of things. Works well.

    1. I grew up in an area where the water was fluoridated and never had a cavity until a couple of years after moving to place without fluoridated water. Moved several more times and have only four fillings at 55 years old.

      1. My teeth were in great shape. Fell out of a deer stand and broke half of them. Terrible fortune. You are very perspicacious and fortunate…

  10. There is a book coming out this summer by Dr. Julie Babcock that explains in detail what is going on with dentistry. It will cover how to find a good, honest dentist, and what questions to ask to ensure you are in the hands of a really good ethical one. Dentists vary greatly in skill and ethics. Excellent dentistry is an investment that an last a life time and although it is expensive, it lasts longer than anything else you may buy. It beats the car, furniture, kitchen appliances etc.

    The problem is seeing cheaper dentists who are fixing broken things without addressing the cause of the disease in the first place. Failure to address this leads to expensive failures and redoing work. A good dentist will take plenty of time to teach their patients how to care for their teeth properly so the patient is less dependent on them.

    For costs, yes, it can be expensive but keep in mind that the average overhead in a dental practice is over 75%. The costs must be covered or the dentist is out of business quick. Dentists rarely have any business training at all but they do understand that money coming in must be higher than money going out. When dental insurance limits the fee to 40% of what it should be the dentist must work an assembly line doubling production just to stay alive. Patients without insurance must make up the difference creating higher prices.

    When it is time to invest in dentistry, do your homework, read the book by Dr. Babcock and find one that will take great care of you. The best dentists will not only do a very thorough exam of your mouth, he/she will spend time talking with you so he/she understands what you are looking for, what your fears are etc.. You should receive a complete treatment plan or “roadmap” with multiple options that restore health over time. That is the most upfront honest way to deal with your dentist. Otherwise every time you go in for a cleaning they will find more broken things to fix and there will never be a trusting relationship.

  11. Dental anesthesia related fears are founded in reality. Never, ever trust your dentist or staff to administer anesthesia. Ask an anesthesiologist why.

  12. I have a great dentist and hygienist.
    Find a DDS that specializes in pain-free. For general dental work you don’t need anesthesia, just Novocain.
    I go twice a year, and pretty much only need cleanings at this point.

  13. Can’t afford dental care. Also, I’ve had bad advice from dentists that resulted in broken teeth.

  14. Of course the expense is a big factor, but there are also shady dentists out there who do unnecessary treatments too. How is it that one dentist sees no cavities but another one a month later somehow finds cavities in both wisdom teeth I had that never had a problem before? Then there is the time the dental assistant dropped the temporary cap down my throat and I started choking while the idiot stood there and did nothing. Luckily, I was able to somehow dislodge it and cough it out. So, yeah a trip to the dentist scares me – I almost choked to death there.

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