The fear of pain from dental treatment has caused millions of people to avoid seeing the dentist regularly. Are you one of those? Did you have a bad experience in the past? As a family and cosmetic dentist in Camarillo, California, I have heard expressions like "Don't take this personally, but I hate the dentist" or "I'd rather have a baby than a root canal." This paradoxical attitude results in unnecessary dental neglect, worsening of dental conditions, and future pain and expense. It is unfortunate, unnecessary and very preventable.
There are many approaches to modern dentistry that I have found to significantly reduce apprehension and anxiety before, during and after dental procedures.
We all do better in stressful situations if we are well-rested which is why it all starts with a good night's sleep. For our apprehensive patients, we will have them take a sedative the night before their appointment to accomplish this. The importance of waking up refreshed cannot be over-stated.
A dentist may prescribe a sedative to be taken right before the appointment to help comfort and relax you. The depth of this relaxation depends on the medication. You may feel anywhere from "I feel like I've had a few drinks" to "I didn't feel or remember anything". The use of the medications will require that you have someone with you to drive you to and from your dental appointment.
Distraction is also a great way to relieve your stress. The less you concentrate on what is going on, the better you will do. Listening to your iPod or watching TV (which many dentists make available) can keep your mind busy doing something else rather than worrying.
The use of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) helps you relax and gives you that calm that allows you to relax during the treatment. What's great about nitrous oxide is that you don't need anyone to drive you home since the effects of the gas are out of your system within minutes of finishing your treatment. There are no unwanted latent effects to have to deal with.
In exceptional cases, a general anesthetic may be indicated to provide a less emotionally debilitating dental experience. A dental anesthesiologist administers the anesthetic that allows you to sleep right through the treatment. A ride home will be necessary.
The fear of pain is often centered around "the shot". What is different these days is the use of topical anesthetics, different injection techniques and dentists with a greater awareness of your comfort. Topical anesthetics help by numbing the gums before the needle is inserted. There are now even high potency topical anesthetics that help make the needle stick imperceptible. Computerized delivery units such as on called "the Wand" help by eliminating the feel of pressure during the injection. Most dentists these days want to please. We have a greater awareness of your comfort (or lack there of) and will strive to make your visit very comfortable. If you feel that your dentist is not on your side, find a new one that you feel is more caring.
Certainly, the most effective practice of managing dental apprehension is communication. Rather than tightly grip the armrests, convey your concerns to the dentist prior to treatment. Identify what approaches in the past have relieved the stress of an unpleasant dental visit and those that create trauma. Most dentists are well-trained in the psychology of care and comfort.
About the Author
Michael Czubiak, DDS is a dentist that has been treating dental phobic patients for over 23 years. He maintains a private practice in Camarillo California. For dental anxiety self-help ideas, go to our website at www.camarillosmiles.com