Why Do Dentists Still Think Fear is a Good Motivator?

by Gabe
(Ohio)

Every time I go to any dentist, they spend half the time terrifying the living daylights out of me about things I need to do for my teeth, and sometimes a few things that have nothing to do with my teeth personally but they were just interested in that day. When I asked a dentist why they felt compelled to intimidate me, they answered that it was because fear is the best motivator and they're simply trying to motivate me to take better care of my teeth.

Well, it's been several years since I saw that dentist who gave that answer, and I haven't exactly been brushing and flossing and rinsing and eating healthier and blah blah blah. Why not? Because fear isn't the best motivator, it's actually the worst motivator. At what point are dentists going to look at all the people who keep coming back and think, "Well gee, maybe scaring them actually makes them FORGET to do what I said because doing it only reminds them of the fear and makes them avoid everything to do with it. Maybe I should try hope as a motivator instead."?

Hope is a great motivator. If those same dentists had said, "brushing your teeth even just once a day will cause you to have strong, healthy teeth capable of breaking ice, and you'll feel awesome both physically and egotistically," I probably would've been brushing my teeth my whole life. But instead they gave me horror spiels about cavities and tooth decay, and so I wound up not brushing my teeth, because I like to just push away everything that scares me.

Reply:

Hi Gabe, That's a very good question! I couldn't have said it better myself. It's something that has frustrated me my whole career. I can't tell you how many times I have heard patients say they stayed away from the dentist for years because they felt shamed or judged. I have no idea why there are still some dentists stuck in the dark ages.

I can tell you without a doubt that not all dentists are that way. Many motivate with hope and encouragement. I hope you will find one of those great dentists. They help people get out of pain and improve their health, appearance and self image everyday. It is worth your time to keep looking until you find one.

BUT...

I can't resist pointing out the obvious...

You don't need someone to tell you what you already know. Who cares how some misguided dentist chose to motivate you years ago? You know it's better for your health to take care of your teeth. So why not take good care of yourself? You are not hurting that dentist only yourself by neglecting something so basic yet important as this.

Just do it for yourself!

Thanks for your thoughtful note and for bringing attention to such an important issue.

~Shelly

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