At my dental clinic, this is the most commonly asked question of the lot, and I probably hear it about five or six times a week. ‘I’m terrified of the dentist, what do I do?’ ‘Is it possible for me to see you for just five minutes?’ ‘How can I get this filling sorted if I am too anxious to even come to the surgery?’ ‘I’ve fainted every single time I have tried to have a dental check up, and the last one that I had was ten years ago!’
I can completely appreciate the fears and anxieties that people have when it comes to visiting the dentist – trust me, even though I am a dentist myself! It is something about the unknown, and the lack of control that can often put people on edge, and for other people it’s the physical aspect of having someone else’s hands in your mouth! What I have spent a large portion of my career working towards, however, is a way that people who are often overcome with terror at the thought of the dentist to receive check ups and treatment without them being overwhelmed, because they are often the people who need treatment the most because they have left seeing a dentist for so long.
So what are your options if the thought of sitting in a dentist’s chair makes you want to bring up your last meal? Well, one of the most extreme options is complete sedation, where you will be put under through a sedative and then brought back round when the entire treatment option is over. Now this is only something that would be offered to the most extreme cases, because it brings with it its own complications, especially for those who have weak hearts and those who are elderly. It is not a type of treatment that I would give to just any patient; I would need to discuss with them exactly how they have worked on processing their fears, and it would also depend on just how bad their dental problems have got because they have avoided seeing a dentist for so long.
At the other end of the spectrum is receiving psychological care and treatment, so that the fear of the dentist itself could be removed from the patient. This is something that can be an on-going treatment option, and can often delay any medical or dental treatment while this process is continuing, and is not therefore something that is generally recommended for those who require immediate or emergency dental care. By the time that the fear of the dentist has been conquered a huge amount of damage could have happened with their teeth – although after the initial dental treatment has been given, I will often recommend that my patients try to work on their fears head on, to make it easier for them to come back to me for a check up.
So where does this leave most people? Well, I find that the most common and most popular treatment to give my patients who have a real difficulty with visiting the dentist is something called oral conscious sedation. It may sound a little odd, but when it comes down to the basics, it just means that I would give my patient a small amount of sedation – not enough to completely put them to sleep, but enough for them to feel the effects – around the oral and dental area. This will allow them to feel quite sleepy and relaxed, so that the fear reflex is lessened, and they are able to almost remove themselves from the situation. This allows me to get in there and give them their treatment, without their bodies panicking and making it impossible for me to treat them.
In some cases, patients are actually able to fall asleep naturally because they are so relaxed, and that for me is the highest compliment. For a person who has up until now been completely unable to even sit in a dentist’s chair long enough for them to be examined to receive treatment without a traumatic experience is everything that I strive for, and it is so wonderful to see the beautiful and healthy smiles o my patients after they have received treatment under the oral conscious sedation technique.
If you, or someone that you know, finds coming to the dentist difficult because of fear and anxiety, then perhaps the oral conscious sedation could make a real difference for you or that person. It is never a good idea to leave seeing a dentist for more than a year in any case, and if you have not seen a dentist for longer than that then now is the time to act. I am very happy to talk to anyone who is feeling worried about their experience at a dental clinic, and together we can find a way to help you get here and home happily and healthily – Call (619) 359-6569.