Millions of Americans miss routine checkups or grin and bear the pain of a cavity because of their fear of the dentist, and the fact that they don't yet know about painless dentistry.
Painless dentistry is the answer to patients' worries. The fear of a potentially painful dental visit keeps people who need screenings, cleanings or more involved dental work away from getting help.
Painless dentistry, also known as sedation dentistry, uses a number of techniques to ensure that your trip to the dentist is relaxed, low-key and (most importantly) free of pain.
Confidently Facing Painless Dentistry
No matter what your anxiety level or reasons for avoiding the dentistry, sedation dentistry can help you face the dentist fearlessly.
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Oral sedation is one way in which patients can have a more tranquil dental visit. With oral sedation patients remain conscious yet calm. Depending on the patient and treatment, patients can also benefit from nitrous oxide pre-treatment as well as local anesthetics to block any dental pain during the procedure.
For lengthier or more involved surgeries like gum restructuring, patients might be interested in taking advantage of intravenous (I.V.) sedation. This has the benefit of making the treatment seemingly happen in the blink of an eye for patients and without any of the pain that their friends might have warned them about.
So, with sedation dentistry you're getting upfront pain relief through the use of topical anesthetics as well as the calming benefits of an oral sedative or, if you choose, nitrous oxide pre-treatment.
These techniques have decades of successful application and have been consistently refined to make your experience painless and worry-free. The use of localized sedation with the calming effects of oral sedatives and/or nitrous oxide provides the kind of anxiety relief designed to help patients overcome their fears.
Take Your Cue from Experts
The famous medical resource WebMD recently forwarded a finding from the Dental Fears Research Clinic that found over five percent of Americans avoided the dentist because of fear. Maybe more surprisingly, one in five Americans reported experiencing anxiety so bad that they only visited the dentist when they absolutely needed to - e.g., when the pain from a cavity proved too much.
It doesn't have to be this way. Psychologists looking into the etiology of patients' fears over the dentist have found two commonalities: Many people - approximately two in three patients - fear the dentist because of a traumatic prior experience while other patients worry about a lack of control.
Working with the patient, sedation dentistry attuned to your needs is the antidote to both of these concerns. A sedation dentist doesn't assume that every patient has the same threshold for pain since it's the sedation dentist's job to make your experience relaxing and painless.
Get Proactive about Dental Visits
We might assume, though, that if patients are going to sedation dentists that they're at least somewhat familiar with common forms of localized and general sedation. What are some other strategies, then, that patients can adopt to make their overall experience more stress-free.
- Deep breathing - This helps many patients to face the dentist fearlessly since it allows patients to develop more realistic expectations.
- Progressive muscle relaxation - A related technique that helps patients proactively achieve anxiety relief. More here.
- Bring a friend - Bringing a friend along to your dental visit is a great way to tout along support and encouragement
- Review Sedation Options - Again, sedation dentists work with patients to ensure that their needs are being met.
Speak Up and Know that Dentists Care
One reason that visiting the dentist can inspire dread in some patients is that they view the process as out of their control. What's really interesting, though, is that patients routinely overestimate the amount of pain that, say, a wisdom tooth extraction will actually cause. Sometimes, truly, the only thing to fear is fear itself.
As an example, patients undergoing wisdom tooth extraction - and frequently other types of tooth extraction as well - receive nitrous oxide or I.V. sedation beforehand and, consequently, experience the surgery as painless. The post-surgery pain that would have plagued patients decades ago is also managed with oral sedatives after treatment.
Speaking directly to the issue of a patient's sense of control, most sedation dentists will be completely willing to listen and respond to you if, say, you're still feeling anxious or slight pain in your mouth and need more localized anesthetic.
One of the biggest leaps forward that sedation dentistry has made isn't technical at all - it's recognizing that every patient has different needs. What accommodations would you request to make your next trip to the dentist more stress-free?