By Drs. Seth and Dana Keiles, Northern Westchester Dental Care
The anxiety that comes with going to the dentist can be debilitating. Millions of people don’t go to the dentist regularly and some avoid the dentist altogether because of fear. Often times, this is because of a bad experience from childhood but it can have many other origins. As the fear grows, many will only see the dentist when pain begins or teeth break. This can become a dangerous cycle.
Thankfully, modern dentistry has come a long way to help dental phobics. Medication, equipment, and understanding by the dental team can make visits easier and often relaxing. We have treated thousands of patients during our careers with some level of phobia. In fact, we have helped many patients that literally could not walk in the front door and who now visit the office regularly and actually look forward to the visits.
Do Your Research
Ask friends and family if they like their dentist. If nothing by word-of-mouth impresses you, search the internet for a trusted local dentist. Reviews on Facebook, Google, ZocDoc, HealthGrades, and even Yelp can give a glimpse into what others are saying.
Calling The Dentist
This step can sometimes be the hardest, but if you ask the right questions, dental offices can help put you at ease over the phone. Ask the dentist and the team if they treat dental phobics and if so, how. Also, ask if they perform any type of sedation.
Think about what might make your first visit easy. It can be helpful, depending on your situation, to ask for a basic consultation. Make sure you are clear in communicating that you are fearful and only want to meet the dentist and see the office. This way you will have a good sense of the office and procedures prior to the actual appointment.
Sedation dentistry has transformed the treatment of patients with dental fears. The term can mean many things, and there are several types of sedation with different indications and levels.
- Some offices use nitrous oxide or “laughing gas” to essentially “take the edge off” a bit. Think of it like having a couple of cocktails. Patients are aware of the surroundings, but are otherwise more relaxed. It is safe because it is mixed with roughly 70% oxygen.
- Oral sedation utilizes a pill and is sometimes called “sleep dentistry.” This term isn’t quite accurate, as patients aren’t really sleeping. It is, however, an extremely safe and effective way to treat phobics. The patients are not aware, for the most part, of any part of the procedure but are still able to communicate. In our practice, this has been an incredible way to treat hundreds of patients who otherwise could not handle the treatment.
- The next level of sedation is IV sedation. This requires a board certified anesthesiologist. Patients are completely sedated throughout the procedure.
- Finally, general anesthesia is used in the most extreme cases. This needs to be performed in a hospital or surgical center.
There are no silly questions when it comes to your health. Start by asking for a referral or doing some research and then picking up the phone. We recommend exploring all of your options and making an informed decision with a team that you trust. When you sit down with your potential treating doctor and their team, we highly suggest coming with a list of questions and taking notes. Once you are put at ease, you will be on your way to better oral and general health.