A meta-analysis of studies from the nation’s leading research universities have come to the consensus that dentists are way more scared of you than you are of them.
Experts hope these findings will help ease anxiety experienced among laypeople when visiting dental practitioners.
“Going to the dentist is a very common fear for the American public,” says one researcher, Dr. Amina Hedayati. “But we hope this phobia can be recontextualized by the knowledge that dentists actually fear their patients even more fervently.”
“It’s understandable that people dread the dentist because they put their fingers in your mouth,” Dr. Hedayati adds. “But consider the flipside — they have to put their fingers in your mouth.”
Ideally, this discovery will nurture a relationship of mutual apprehension and discomfort wherein all parties of a dental appointment understand that each person would rather not.
“At best, this could be a real lesson in empathy,” said one dentist, who wished to remain anonymous. “Just think, while most people only go to the dentist once a year, I have to endure the shock and horror of opening a stranger’s mouth and scraping metal objects across bone every single day. So who really has it worse?”
This framing could just catalyze a paradigmatic shift in the public perception of dentistry.
“Culturally, dentists have come to carry some very negative connotations,” Dr. Hedayati says. “They’re creepy, loathsome, sadistic. But we have to understand that when dentists become a stand-in for these qualities, it’s individual dentists who bear the cost, and they’re just trying to get through the day, so try not to scream or freak out when you see a dentist; they’re terrified of you, too.”
While a vast majority of the public will never love the dentist, psychologists and behavioral scientists agree that particularly when at the dentist’s office, peaceably sharing space is part of the deal.
“Just keep space when you and remain calm when you can’t,” says Dr. Hedayati. “Unless you ever find a dentist in your shower, in which case you can kill him.”