Phobia-Dentist Disconnect

If you want to know why there is such an ingrained connection in our society between the words phobia-dentist, just observe the media or art, especially movies or commercials. Even though the dental profession has taken many positive steps towards making dental treatment more comfortable for the public, the negative image of mean, aloof and uncaring dentists and painful dentistry has been “drilled” into the minds of the public psyche for years. Unfortunately that trend still exists today.

Two television commercials I saw recently caught my eye and confirmed my observations. The first one showed a helpless old woman in a dental chair with her eyes fixed in fright. She is lying back in the chair with cotton rolls, gauze and dental instruments sticking out of her open mouth. The dentist, with mad eyes and smirk smile, approached her with a needle the size of Rhode Island. I wondered whether it was an ad for the Society for the Protection of Sadists and Masochists or recruitment for the American Nazi Party. Nope! It’s for a diet soft drink. I didn’t get the connection, but obviously, the advertising executives thought that it would sell more of the soda.

The other commercial shows a dentist standing over his patient. From his demeanor, you can tell that he is obviously in a hurry. He is muttering to himself and his patient that he has until 11:30 to do something. Then, he leaves his patient, and his dental assistant takes over. She approaches the patient with that same crazy stare and a high-pitched whining hand piece. She assures the patient with the following statement, “Don’t worry, I’m used to doing this.” The message is clear. Ordering office supplies from an office supply store at a discounted rate and free shipping is obviously more important to this dentist than caring for his patient.

These are just two examples of the exaggerated and negative depictions of dentists and the fear-provoking nature of dental treatment. They are among the reasons that contribute to why people are so afraid of dental treatment and dentist phobias are so common. There are many other examples of the unfair slant on the betrayal of the dental profession by the arts and the media. Other than advertisements of fluoride toothpastes or whitening agents and 800Dentist, it is sad that even in 2010, there are still few if, any positive, dental advertisements depicting dentists in a more favorable light, where the connection between the words phobia-dentist can start to be broken.