November 30, 2022

Most dental offices are actually quite pleasant – comfy chairs, smiling faces, soothing music in the background… (Was that a child’s scream I just heard?) Never-the-less, a lot of folks have had bad experiences in a dental office, typically as children, and as a result, find it very difficult to pick up the phone and make an appointment – even if they’re hurting.

But the hurt will only get worse if you fail to get over it and take action.

I’ve used the same dentist for many years and he happens to be around my age and loves to talk as he works (even though I often have a difficult time responding). He’s been told many stories over the years by patients who were practically traumatized by dentists who just kept right on drilling even though their jaws were not fully numb. Ouch! Apparently, a lot of them complained about the pain but it seemed the dentist just didn’t believe them. This can really leave a bad taste in your mouth – especially if it happened as a child.

Please don’t wait 15 or 20 years as some have done before braving the visit – a whole lot can go seriously wrong with your oral (and bodily) health during that amount of time!

Do you have “dental phobia”?

If you have a case of dental phobia, the first thing you need to do is acknowledge the fact that it’s time to grab that phone (with both hands if necessary) and make the appointment. That’s step number one. Realize that your teeth and gums are a vital part of your overall heath because what goes on in there can indeed cause other serious issues in your body, even cancer and heart disease.

The next step is to find a dentist you can feel comfortable with – in so doing, you will have won half the battle. It’s important for most people to know that they are in control and that they will be numb – and that dentistry has come a long way over the past several years. Most caring dentists will assure their patients that everything will be just fine and all they have to do is raise their hand if they start feeling any discomfort. For many, that’s all they needed to hear.

Sometimes extra provisions will be made for any work done on the lower jaw because this bone is very thick and more difficult to numb. Numbing agents do not penetrate to the tooth as well as they do on the upper jaw. Apparently, some people seem to have more nerves in their lower jaws than others as well, which will call for an extra injection. (Not to worry because your jaw is already numb at this point – just be careful not to chew off your lower lip on the way home.)

Worst-case scenario – sedation

If you still have a lot of anxiety – don’t worry (okay, I think that’s a misnomer). Today’s dentists are usually well-trained and well prepared – simply have a little conversation with him or her before they get into anything major.

If in need, the dentist will typically have three courses of action available, depending on the procedure and the patient’s mindset. The more moderate approach would be the use of laughing gas which involves using a small mask over the patient’s nose to breath in a mix of oxygen and nitrous oxide. If this doesn’t quite do the trick the dentist may opt to include a form of oral sedation. One is called Trasilam which is simply a short-term sleeping pill that also incorporates an amnesiac effect.

The final recourse would simply be the use of a bottle of whiskey and a ballpeen hammer. (Only kidding – do not hang up the phone!) Actually, it would be the administration of general anesthesia.

Time to move on

We all know that fear of going to the dentist is very real. But a good, caring and understanding professional can help you to overcome it. Communication is key – along with taking positive action – and making that appointment. Avoidance is certainly not a cure – and can even become a “killer” in a sense due to the unhealthy consequences of failing to maintain good oral hygiene. Most dentists have come a long way and even promote a softer touch, or painless treatments.

On your way home from that first visit you will feel a great sense of relief in knowing that you are an over-comer and are on the way to healthier mouth and body.