If the mere mention of going to the dentist sends you into a tailspin, you are not alone.
People have varying levels of anxiety about seeing their dental care provider —some come from unpleasant experiences and others from watching "Marathon Man" one too many times.
I think my profession has gotten a bad rep. There have been drastic advancements in the field of dentistry, both technologically and clinically, that make going to the dentist less frightening.
For example, digital X-rays mean that you will be exposed to 80 to 90 percent less radiation than you would with traditional X-rays. And you can see the results immediately to boot.
This means that I can diagnose any problems sooner and show you where the issues in your mouth are. Better products, better techniques and ongoing education keep us updated on how to provide dentistry that is comfortable for the patient and efficient as far as time spent in the office.
Along with the products come services. As dentists, we realize that getting some of you into our offices is challenging, based on your preconceived notions.
Today, many offices offer ways to help you alleviate your fears. For example, we offer noise-canceling headphones so you can listen to your favorite tunes instead of the dental instruments.
Heated neck wraps, chair massagers and refreshment centers also help you relax and take your mind off your visit.
As far as helping with real anxiety, oral sedation is a great option. If needed, your doctor can prescribe a relaxant to calm your nerves.
In our office, we would ask you to come in one hour earlier so we can administer the medication and monitor you.
You will be in a very relaxed state during your treatment and will have little or no memory of the procedure, so you must have someone to drive you home afterward.
If oral sedation does not ease your fears, the next step is conscious IV sedation. In this case, a medication is administered intravenously.
The person administering the IV must have advanced training and be licensed by the state of California.
Most offices would call upon a local anesthesiologist for this service, for which you would pay an additional fee. In some cases, the dentist is licensed to administer IV sedation.
I’m licensed to perform this service. Again, as with oral sedation, you will have very little, if any, memory of your appointment.
Choosing which level of sedation works best is based on the needs of each patient. Oral sedation is often best for shorter visits, generally those requiring you to be in the office for less than two hours.
IV sedation is recommended for visits longer than two hours or when extensive treatment is required.
Both options allow for work to be completed in fewer visits with the benefit of retrograde amnesia, so you will have little or no memory of your treatment.
As a matter of fact, we have patients who may not be fearful but still request IV sedation to minimize the number of appointments it takes to complete the dental work.
This is especially the case for those who travel frequently or otherwise have limited time.
Ultimately, it comes down to how you feel in your dental office. As your dental team, we understand that there may have been experiences with previous dental care providers that have caused anxiety.
Our job is to ensure that you understand that we are well trained to take care of your dental needs. More importantly, our goal as dentists is to ensure you feel comfortable and safe in our care.
With all the options available today, it’s my hope that you will not put off your dental care any longer.
Your mouth is as important as any other part of your body, so make sure you take good care of it and keep it healthy.
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