FRIDAY, June 24, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A new survey finds that women are 2.5 times more likely than men to say they fear a trip to the dentist. But Canadian researchers also suspect that many of the survey's male respondents were fibbing about the depth of their dental fears.
"Women are more likely to be honest about their feelings. The typical male would be less likely to admit to being afraid of the dentist," Brian Chanpong, a dental anesthetist in Vancouver, said in a prepared statement. Chanpong conducted the study while at the University of Toronto.
The survey of 1,100 Canadians found 5.5 percent saying they were very afraid of dentists -- so much so that half of those people said they had canceled or avoided a dental appointment out of fear. That means that, out of the country's total population of nearly 33 million people, dental anxieties may have prompted more than 400,000 Canadians to avoid a dental appointment in 2004, Chanpong and his colleagues estimated.
Untreated cavities and gum disease "can lead to infection and to a serious, systemic health issue. It's not just a cosmetic issue," study co-author and dentistry professor Daniel Haas said in a prepared statement.
Increased use of general anesthesia or sedation may offer a possible remedy. Among those surveyed, 12 percent were definitely interested in those options, with another 42 percent expressing interest if these services were offered at an affordable price.
"Both dentists and the general public need to be aware that these options are available. Consider comparable medical procedures -- people never even question whether there's a need for sedation, it's simply accepted practice," Haas said.
The study appears in the June issue of the journal Anesthesia Progress.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry has advice on how to calm anxious children during a visit to the dentist.