Are you afraid of going to the dentist? You aren’t alone, more than half of America’s population of perfectly healthy, normal people fear the dentist for various reasons. “Dental phobia” runs the gamut from mild anxiety to severe stress and emotional discomfort to full-on dental phobia, or “odontophobia.” It should comfort you to know that this is a very common reaction, and even dentists report experiencing some anxiety before going to see their own dentist! Dental phobia is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but unfortunately, it can mean that you end up neglecting your oral health for far too long, sometimes years. The longer you stay away from a dentist the more damage may occur to your teeth or your gums, and then it’s practically guaranteed that any dental problems you have may escalate and become truly serious.
Fortunately, there are now dental specialists who are specifically trained to treat patients that suffer from this kind of fear; they’re called “Sedation Dentists,” and they understand that your discomfort and fear aren’t going to go away simply by meditating or “going to your happy place.” A sedation dentist can help you overcome the fear and anxiety of dental treatment both by providing you with safe and effective tranquilizers or sedatives and treating you with appropriate levels of anesthesia and pain medication before, during, and after your procedures. By establishing a relationship with a dentist who completely understands how difficult it is for you to sit in a dentist’s chair, you will be able to start and continue on a program of regular dental visits and care that may help prevent the kind of serious dental problems you’re afraid of from ever occurring in the first place!
A Sedation Dentist has had specialized training in both psychological approaches as well as sedative and anesthetic medications. They provide the safest and most comfortable experience possible for patients with dental phobias from the time a patient walks in the door until they leave. The office of a Sedation Dentist is a comfortable and tranquil environment that minimizes the sights, smells, and sounds of any dental procedures that are performed. The dental staff is also trained to provide a calm, friendly environment, while soft lights and music help to keep patients relaxed. Dental instruments are hidden from sight, and now, new technological advances in those dental tools make dental procedures far less invasive; even a dental drill is very quiet now. Often a dentist won’t even wear scrubs in order to minimize any kind of identification with previous dental trauma!
In addition to creating a relaxed office ambience free from fearful triggers, the most important thing a Sedation Dentist can offer you is safe and effective oral sedation to help you tolerate a dental procedure in comfort, free from fear. The medications available have been used for years and vigorously studied. Sedative medications help you relax by slowing the action of your central nervous system. There are different levels of sedation, and your dentist will discuss all of your options with you, including any medications you may currently be taking.
If you choose minimal sedation, where you will be awake but relaxed. This can be achieved either through inhaling nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas,” to help you relax, or oral sedation where you will be given a drug like Valium. Taken about an hour before the dental procedure, this class of benzodiazepines will help you feel relaxed and drowsy, but you’ll still be awake. Moderate oral sedation is achieved with a larger dose of Valium or similar drug. With moderate sedation you may fall asleep but you can still be awakened. Deep or “twilight” sedation is generally given through an intravenous application and you will be only minimally conscious, and usually not remember much about the procedure afterwards. The only time you would be entirely unconscious is when you are undergoing dental surgery, and that kind of surgery is generally done in a hospital or outpatient clinic. Regardless of which kind of sedation your dentist uses, you will need a companion to drive you home, and you will to give yourself about a day to let the effects of the medication wear off. One of the many advantages of oral sedation is that several different procedures that might take several visits can all be done at once, or a procedure that might take a fairly long time can be done far more comfortably, and with very little “down-time.”
Sedation dentists also have many new techniques for minimizing discomfort and pain during procedures as well. For example, fear of “the needle” is one of the top issues patients have with seeing the dentist. Now, if you need local anesthesia around the tooth that is being worked on, it can be done using a strong topical anesthetic gel or patch together first, and then the anesthetic can be infused with a dental wand, which is basically a computer-controlled dental injection with a very thin needle. Because the computer controls the rate of flow of the anesthetic, it can be administered very slowly, which makes it almost painless. Air abrasion has replaced the dental drill to remove decay on the teeth, and it’s so comfortable it can be used without anesthetic. Intraoral cameras and digital ex-rays allow the dentist to locate problems in the teeth with very little discomfort and minimal exposure to radiation. Laser dentistry is a new and much less invasive alternative to many procedures because it uses light rather than surgical instruments, and results in a short and almost painless healing period. The laser option can be used to treat decay, gum issues, dental fillings, tooth sensitivity, and can even improve speech impediment issues. If you need dental restoration work done, Computer Assisted Design (CAD) and Computer Assisted Manufacture (CAM) technologies can now create more accurate and natural looking bridges, veneers, and crowns in a shorter amount of time, with fewer visits and fittings.
If fear is preventing you from getting regular dental checkups and dental care, if you’ve been living with ongoing tooth pain, or if you haven’t been to see a dentist for years, there’s no reason to delay making an appointment now. Today you are guaranteed that a Sedation Dentist understands your issues and can provide you with almost completely painless dental care in a stress and anxiety-free atmosphere. Going to the dentist doesn’t have to be frightening or painful any more, dentistry has come a long way in 25 years. Plus, it’s now been proven that your dental health affects your overall health in crucial ways, and that means you truly need to become proactive in finding the kind of preventative dental care that will ultimately improve your quality of life.
So, look for a Sedation Dentist who “caters to cowards,” and explain your issues today. When you work with a dentist who specializes in your specific fears and phobias, you can rest assured that he or she will do everything possible to help alleviate anxiety and pain, so that you can get the kind of regular dental care you need to keep your teeth and gums healthy – for life!