Saturday, March 24, 2007


Fear of dentists, "Dentophobia," or dental phobia, has been recognised in certain parts of the globe. I was under the impression that fear of the dentist, his or her drill, as well as all of the procedures that they perform on a patient’s teeth, was completely normal, a ‘given’ if you will. I would not have described this fear, as a phobia, because a phobia implies something out of the norm. Surely a fear of dentists, is part of being a human being in the 21st century? When there were no dentists, and no dental procedures, no-one was afraid of them.

It was only when I arrived in America that I became aware that only a very small percentage of the population shared this fear. The people who shared this fear were predominantly British, or failing that, European. Suddenly I was part of another "minority."

Brits and their teeth make for an amusing anecdote or three, amongst our American cousins. They chortle with a combination of delight and disgust at what we Brits correctly refer to as our gnashers. Few can either comprehend, nor imagine, walking around as an adult person with the kind of teeth that the average Brit suffers. It’s not just the sparkly white brilliance of their enamel, but the uniformity that is such a feat of staggering engineering, or what Americans refer to as dentistry.

My first hint that something was amiss, was during my first visit to a dental practice in this country. I was mentally prepared. I removed my glasses and adopted the customary dental-foetal position on the dentist’s chair; neck extended, head back, mouth open, ankles crossed, knees to chest with arms wrapped around calves in a locked embrace. The dentist looked me up and down before speaking. He checked his chart before mentioning “I am Dr. Molar, the orthodontist, are you supposed to be next door with Dr. Gyn?” This struck me as an odd remark; he was a bird dentist? Up until that moment I hadn’t realized that bird’s had any teeth, but my brain was too frozen by fear to respond verbally.

By comparison with Americans, Brits are cold and unfriendly. We do not smile much. Part of the reason that we do not smile much, at least to Americans, is because when faced with a mouth full of glitterati, we become aware of a mouthful of impediments, our own. Americans are too polite to mention the dental train smash before them. Our politically correct cousins, do not belittle us, nor do they comment or criticize. Broadly speaking, they are simply too stunned to address the subject and assume that we are too poor to be able to afford dental insurance.

To be fair, it is a question of degree. Some British mouths have a conglomeration of teeth that fall within the normal section of the bell curve. A certain percentage, pass with flying colours, usually white, but there is a significant statistical percentage that are simply beyond the pail, or maybe pale. It is this minority that we most need to assist. It will take more than a few ‘whitening strips’ if truth be told.

Whilst the stiff upper lip can hide the "bad teeth," if you’re up for it, [translation = ready] it can also hide the braces.

1 comment:

Awesome Mom said...

I thing more Americans hate the dentist than are really willing to admit it. I have not been in several years now since I no longer have my mother to drag me there every six months.