Fear of going to the dentist didn’t make any top 10 lists I found on the internet, but it’s a sentiment I hear several times a week. The reason behind the fear is as varied as the people who express it.
Unfortunately, not going to the dentist only works for so long. Eventually, you’ll be forced to the dentist by a serious problem and probably end up spending a lot more than you would have if you’d gone sooner.
In addition, lack of dental care results in an increased risk of gum disease (a leading cause of tooth loss in adults), poorer overall health, increased self-consciousness and decreased self-worth.
It is important for you to identify what fears keep you from seeking dental care so that you can find the right dentist to help you. Your dentist should be willing to discuss your concerns with you and propose solutions. Some offices will schedule a meet-and-greet appointment with the dentist.
Some things you can do to make yourself more comfortable:
- Schedule your appointments at the time of day when you are most relaxed
- Bring someone (a relative or friend) along for support (You may want to ask if the office allows this now depending on COVID regulations)
- Bring your own music (an iPod or other mp3 player, portable CD player etc.)
- If you are someone who likes to know what is going on, ask your dentist and their team to explain what they are doing either before starting or during the procedure itself. (Conversely, if you don’t want to know, advise them of that also.)
- Know what the office’s signal is to stop them in case you need to tell them something. (Usually it’s something like raising your left hand).
Today’s dentists have a wide range of options to assist fearful patients. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but merely a starting point for discussion with your dentist. My office offers some but not all of the items on this list.
- Laser Dentistry: Some treatment can be done with a dental laser. With some lasers, like the Waterlase, the need for local anesthetics (what people commonly call “novocaine”) is reduced or eliminated.
- Topical Anesthetic: Ask if the office uses a topical gel prior to numbing you (topical gels are like over-the-counter Anbesol products).
- Oraqix: A product called Oraqix can be used for some shorter, soft tissue procedures like deep cleanings. It is a gel placed between the gum and the tooth and provides about 20 minutes of numbness and can be reapplied if needed.
- Ask if the office has a local anesthetic delivery system: The Wand or VibraJet are two brand names you may have heard.
Remember that you may need more local anesthetic than the average dental patient. You should not be afraid to ask your dentist to give you more if you feel you are not numb. (Though there is a limit to how much you can safely be given, and if you get close to that, your dentist may need to reschedule you with a different plan to manage your treatment.)
If none of the above work for you, your dentist may enlist the help of a psychologist to plan a series of visits that helps you to become more comfortable with the dental office. Hypnosis is another tool psychologists have that might help you to feel more relaxed during dental treatment.
Sometimes your dentist will prescribe an anti-anxiety medication to take an hour or two before your dental appointment. A disadvantage of this option is that someone must drive you to and from the dental office. Your dentist may want to consult with your medical doctor if you take other medications or have health problems to make sure there are no interactions.
Laughing gas (nitrous oxide) provides a quickly reversible relaxation experience, but because it is delivered by a nosepiece, some people find it confining or claustrophobic. It is harder to find dentists that offer this option because of increased regulations over the past few years plus studies that have linked its use to a higher rate of miscarriages in dental office personnel.
If you are looking to be “knocked out”, IV sedation might be your best choice. This is also a good choice if you have a large amount of dental work that needs to be done at one time. You will need someone to drive you to and from your appointment as well as to stay with you for at least 6 hours after your dental visit. This option is not a good choice for you if you have trust issues or want to feel you have control.
General Anesthesia is usually the last resort as it has many more drawbacks and possible complications than the other options listed. General Anesthesia is usually done in a hospital or surgery center because of these increased risks.
So as you can see, you have many options to help you cope with your fear and receive needed dental treatment. The first step is finding the right dentist. If you do not have a dentist and want to see if we’re the right office for you, please call us at 440-960-1940 or contact us through our website at www.drjrobb.com.
*Note: The information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.