DR. HORANIC'S PUBLICATIONS
Are You Afraid of The Dentist?

Have you been avoiding the dentist because of fear? Have you made an appointment after years of dental neglect only to cancel at the last minute because you were too nervous? Well, worry no more. Dentists today have new techniques and materials that can help make your visit more pleasant.

An appointment with a dentist is inevitable. It can be for something easy and pain free, like a preventive sealant, or for something more difficult, like an extraction. It all depends on how early the dentist is able to correct the problem. Unfortunately, most patients wait too long. The longer you wait, the more difficult, more costly and more painful your treatment may end up being. Sticking your head in the sand and hoping the problems go away will not work when trying to get teeth to last for 70 years in a trouble-free manner!

The more fearful a dental patient the more they should visit. If a patient is visiting every six months, dentists can easily spot problems when they are small and can easily be handled. The fixes are preventive, which means minimal discomfort, inexpensive and quick. Consistent positive appointments can lead to a quick comfort level and also means problems will be caught early and handled with minimal discomfort.

For those patients who are just too nervous to get started, modern dentistry has come a long way. Here are several methods dentists can use to ease anxiety in extreme cases:

Nitrous Oxide or laughing gas: While it doesn't actually make you laugh, it does a great job with making a patient relax. The dentist will simply place a cone over the patient's nose and in less than two minutes the patient will feel relaxed. Patients often continue to use nitrous oxide until they feel comfortable going to the dentist without anxiety. Patients are free to drive home on their own after a few minutes of oxygen.

Oral conscious sedation: Medications like Halcyon, Valium and Ativan can be used to make a patient feel very relaxed and sleepy. With this type of sedation, most patients will simply fall asleep. The beauty of choosing this type of sedation is that most patients have no memory of the visit, even if a procedure is uncomfortable. However, with sedation patients must have someone drive them to and from the appointment as the duration of the medication is four to six hours.

IV sedation: Only dentists who are licensed to practice sedation dentistry can perform this technique. IV sedation employs intravenous agents to produce a relaxed and anxiety-free state. During IV sedation, a patient is hooked up to a blood pressure monitor, heart rate monitor and pulse oximeter to comply with standard safety procedures. The procedure does not put the patient into a complete sleep state, although partial or complete amnesia is often experienced. Patients must have someone drive them home and most likely take the day off from work.

Finally, and most importantly, learn to trust your dentist. Once you have established a rapport with your dentist and trust his/her ability to deliver the safest, most appropriate dental care, you should determine which aspects of the dental experience scare you. Advances in dentistry over the years have made the majority of dental procedures today relatively pain free, if not completely painless. Consider coming up with a signal with your dentist, such as raising your hand, to indicate pain or discomfort during procedures. The more your dentist understands about your dental anxiety, the more prepared he/she will be to modify work for your specific needs.

Don't let your dental anxiety prevent you from receiving professional dental care. The key to overcoming your dental phobia is discussing your fears with your dentist. Actively expressing concerns to your dentist can help reduce fear. When your dentist is aware of your apprehension, he/she can work with you to determine the best method for helping you overcome your dental anxiety.


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