Day after day I end up in the same conversation in my practice. It usually starts...Patient: “I hate the dentist, no offence.” Me: “No offence taken..
This negative start to an examination often stems from the good old days of the ‘murder house’ or the old school dental nurse. I was lucky enough not to grow up during this period, however I have a real appreciation of what some people went through as I often feel like a part time psychologist - helping people override their ‘dental anxiety’.
A young developing brain subjected to dental trauma can result in a deeply ingrained phobia of visiting a dentist. The fear is often irrational to adults, however it is important to manage this anxiety correctly.
Fortunately these days we have ways in which we can manage ‘dental anxiety’, and here are some options :
1. Good Dentist - Patient Relationship
Research has shown that one of the strongest ways to reduce dental anxiety is to find a dentist that you get on with and trust. Trust is earnt so it may not come straight away - but overtime this can be one of the most powerful ways to reduce anxiety.
2. Good Local Anesthetic
Before 1884 there was no pain relief when getting dental work - except for a bottle of rum before the surgery! Thankfully, modern anesthetics are strong and control pain very well. Good injection technique and using topical anesthetics (gels that numb before the injection) can often allow painless injections.
3. Laughing Gas
In 1799, a chemist by the name of David Huphrey discovered nitrous oxide gas or 'laughing gas'. The gas reduces anxiety and also has a mild pain relief effect. We use this a lot for kids and for patients who are getting deep cleans. The name ‘laughing’ comes from the odd patient who can’t stop ‘giggling’. One of the benefits of the gas is that patients recover very quickly afterwards.
4. Oral Sedation
Oral Sedation can be used to reduce anxiety prior to an appointment. It is a mild and easy way to relax patients. However, it can be a bit hit and miss getting the desired level of sedation.
5. Intravenous Sedation
Intravenous Sedation is the most powerful tool we have to control ‘dental anxiety’. A small port in your arm allows us to administer a sedative. The beauty about intravenous sedation is that we can control (titrate) the level of sedation for each person to suit their needs.
People are usually a little groggy for the day or so. However, most people report very little recollection of the procedure and a positive experience.
There are a lot of options available to manage ‘dental anxiety’. Do not allow your fear to stop you from going to a dentist as this will only lead to neglect and further problems.
Dentists these days are aware of the rough times people have had in the past - and I know I don’t want to be talked about in 100 years as one of those people! So find a good dentist and break through those fears.