Fear of the dentist can take many forms and is not limited to young children, or even to those who have had a previous bad experience. Then, too, the fear can manifest in unusual ways, such as overwhelming reluctance to undergo diagnostic X-rays or schedule semi-annual cleaning, but no fear at all prior to a necessary root canal or extraction.
The mind is a curious thing, isn’t it? And the imagination is responsible for some inexplicable apprehensions when it comes to “doing what is good for us.” But a new experience awaits if it has been awhile since your last dental cleaning appointment.
Getting Beyond the Fear
Calming your dental fears can be rooted in a fear of being hurt. For most people, there is an underlying dislike for having someone else poke around in the mouth. However, most people also realize that modern dentistry does not hurt. The days of enduring even a few moments of pain are long past for common procedures. Even the needles that deliver numbing doses of a local anesthetic are seldom painful. No matter what a person’s pain threshold, dentists have perfected ways to sidestep the hurt and modern technology has made dental work faster, easier and much better. Only a few patients now remember the old days of “rinse and spit,” and even gag reflexes can be quieted. Progressive procedures are the norm today.
So, why do some people still resist the benefits that regular dental cleaning provides? Unfortunately, some misconceptions persist and popular horror stories still circulate. Stories about problems with Novocaine, which has not commonly been used in this country for 30 years or longer, and about the “danger” of X-rays, still scare some people.
Cleaning by a hygienist differs from other dental work in two important ways: Usually, cleaning is performed au naturel, without any form of numbing; and the scraping, buzzing, tapping and polishing sounds can be magnified, in the head, to a disturbing level. There are also a few patients who find the taste of polishing and brightening compounds distasteful.
It does not have to be so, however.
Perceptive hygienists easily tune in on patient fears. A tendency to grip the arms of the chair too tightly, holding one’s breath, or rigid posture, and short, one-word responses to initial questions are sure signs of distress. If a little friendly banter does not ease the tension, the perceptive hygienist is likely to suggest an alternative.
Sedation Dentistry Comes of Age
All modern dentists are quick to acknowledge that modern drugs have simplified their tasks tremendously. Not only are new anesthetics and topical pain-killers fast-acting and low-dose, they are also safer and much less likely to cause allergic reactions and annoying after-effects. Drugs used to calm and relax as well as to reduce pain can be employed to reduce or eliminate patient fears about cleaning procedures.
There are several levels of sedation dentistry, each with a specific goal:
- Minimal Sedation simply relaxes you, but you are still fully awake and responsive.
- Moderate Sedation may affect speech and awareness, but some memories may be lost or hazy even though the patient remains conscious.
- Deep Sedation places patients just at the edge of consciousness, but allows for immediate awakening. It can suppress all sensations of pain, and usually prevents recall of specifics.
- General Anesthesia is almost always reserved for surgical procedures. It is administered under the care and supervision of a trained anesthesiologist who monitors the patient’s condition at all times. Some recovery period is necessary, and the effects must wear off or be reversed with additional drugs.
At Briglia Dental Group, we use Blue Tricaine Gel, light numbing and nitrous oxide as necessary to add to our patients’ comfort and facilitate successful cleaning, as well as to perform common tooth repairs.
Nitrous oxide is also known as “laughing gas,” and its use is entirely appropriate for those with a dental cleaning phobia. It is inhaled, along with oxygen, through a mask that covers the nose, and there are no lasting effects. You will be able to talk and “experience” the procedure, but you’ll also return to “full normal” when the gas is turned off, and can immediately stand, walk and even operate machinery! Yes, you can drive home.
Once you have experienced stress-free cleaning, you will likely have no hesitation about scheduling other dental work, should it be necessary. And, after a few pain-free and stress-less cleanings, you may find that you can graduate to the ranks of unassisted cleanings. That is really something to smile about.
The Lasting Benefits of Healthy Teeth and Gums
Routine cleaning is imperative to maintain healthy gums and strong teeth. Even patients who are scrupulous about their daily routines — brushing, rinsing and flossing as recommended — benefit from professional removal of plaque and harmful deposits.
Several recent studies have confirmed that a link exists between inflammatory arthritis and tooth and gum problems, and there is also a relationship between oral problems and certain other systemic diseases, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, cardio-vascular problems and HIV-Aids, according to the Mayo Clinic. Regular cleaning acts as an early warning system of potential gum disease, improves self-esteem by enhancing tooth brightness, and gives our dentist an opportunity to check for cavities and other problems.
Dental care is an investment in your total well-being. Taking care of a mouthful of teeth, from that first set of baby teeth through adulthood and into the senior years, should be a priority for health-conscious families. Our staff at Briglia Dental Group is committed to the goal of being the pain free dentist your family can rely upon for all your needs. Whether you need preventive dentistry and routine cleanings, periodontal consultation, bridges or crowns, smile repair, cosmetic procedures or root canals and implants, we can assure you that there is nothing to fear. As progressive and caring professionals, we have banished anxiety by embracing the benefits of sedation dentistry. Won’t you schedule an appointment with us today? Call us at (610) 692-4440 or feel free to contact us through our online form!