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Wherever you look in the media, dentists are portrayed as sadistic torturers, who relish every scream from one of their helpless victims. This image has been around for so long, that many people are convinced by it. Combine this bad press with traumatic childhood memories of a particularly rough practitioner, and it is not surprising that many people are verging on the phobic when it is time to visit the dentist. But there ARE ways to conquer this irrational fear, and overcome your sense of dread as you book a dental appointment.

Just as you would never dream of driving your car for five years without having it serviced, your teeth also benefit from regular professional care. So many people only visit their dentists when they are being tormented by the agony of a toothache. Naturally, if you only visit your dentist when you are in severe pain, and your tooth is in the advanced stages of decay, you will continue to associate your dentist with nothing but pain and expense. If, however, you make regular appointments (every six months is recommended, but annually is still better than every five years) you will find that your perception of the dental surgery begins to change.

You will be catching any potential problems in their early stages - probably even before they begin to cause you pain - and can have them treated before they require 3 more visits and substantially larger amounts of cash. If you view your regular visits as dental maintenance, rather than a stressful obligation, you will find that both your fears and your financial distress will be considerably lessened.

These days, preventive dentistry is about giving your teeth regular attention to avoid problems before they develop, rather than waiting until that painful tooth in the back is rotting and black before you seek emergency advice. But your dentist can also be the first stop on the road to a makeover. A range of tooth-whitening procedures are currently available, which can produce a dazzling smile, and provide the remedy to the yellow teeth caused by too much coffee, smoking, or just the luck of the genetic draw. And if you've always been embarrassed by crooked or missing teeth, your dentist can literally change your life by giving you a new smile. Developments in aesthetic dentistry are progressing in leaps and bounds every year. Make an appointment with your dentist to discuss the latest procedures, and to learn about the possibilities for dramatically improving the way you look.

Dentists are no longer in charge of medieval torture chambers. A timely visit to your dentist can get to oral problems before they develop into something more serious, and can also give your mouth a makeover and a very good reason to smile.