It's not the boogeyman. It's not Jason or Freddie Kruger either. It's the dentist. One person who scares kids and adults more than any other frightful character — real or imagined. But why? That's what a new study hopes to discover.

Researchers from West Virginia University, Indiana University, WVU-Charleston and the University of Charleston plan to join forces in a study to unlock the mystery of why so many people are scared of the dentist.

I don't know about you, but I think I could save them all some time. Why are people afraid of the dentist? Simple. The drill, the pain and the scoldings. I mean really, where else do you regularly go that you know will involve at least a little bit of pain — possibly a lot of pain — and will commence with a lecture about your daily grooming habits? Only the dentist manages to follow up a painful visit with scoldings about how much you stink at taking care of yourself.

To be fair, I've had it pretty easy at the dentist thus far, and so have my kids. No major procedures to date (knock on wood) but even still, I find that I often put off making appointments for longer than I should because of the dreaded scrapings and lectures.

But some folks don't just put off going to the dentist for a few weeks; they avoid it all together. And it's this level of dental fear and phobia that researchers say puts many Americans at a greater risk of gum disease and early tooth loss — conditions that affect a person's physical, social and mental health.

According to Dr. Daniel McNeil, one of the study's lead investigators, “This project is important for the people of West Virginia because we have very serious oral health problems here as a population. Children, adults and older adults suffer a disproportionate burden of oral diseases and related aversion to dental care. We have one of the highest rates in the nation of toothlessness in people over age 45."

Are you afraid of going to the dentist? Let me know why in the comments below.

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Source: WVU Healthcare