Is Going to the Dentist Scary?

Fear of the Dentist

Yeah I’m going there – only my third blog post and I’m already having to dig deep into those subjects where nobody likes to go. Can’t wait to see what blog post #6 is going to be like!

So the reason I bring this up is because I just finished up a patient who was very apprehensive about coming. They needed treatment on a tooth that had a pretty large cavity that needed a crown. The patient did great with the help of a little nitrous gas (aka laughing gas) and made it through their appointment just fine and now the tooth will not end up needing something more involved like a root canal. But this could have easily turned out differently!

Dr. Peter Milgrom who runs the Dental Fears Research Clinic at the University of Washington (yes there is such a thing), states that approximately 20% of the population avoids visiting the Dentist unless they are in severe pain. Two – thirds of those site a previously bad experience as their primary motivator. That’s a lot of people.

Some of the stories I have heard about how Dentists have treated patients over the years are beyond belief. I had my own experience when I had to have my first filling when I was a teenager. The Dentist was a guy who bought the practice of the Dentist we had gone to for years. Long story short: he started drilling into a tooth that wasn’t numb yet, and when I jumped, he kept going because he couldn’t be bothered to stop for a couple of minutes and add more anesthetic. Now while that is tame compared to some of the other stories I’ve heard over the years, for some people that’s all it will take for them to never go back.

But the fear can be debilitating. Problems that occur in our mouth are like cancer. Most of the time they don’t hurt and we don’t know they’re there until it’s too late. Had the patient above let their fear dictate whether or not to come, within a few months they would have likely needed a root canal. Fear can lead to more pain and more expense.

So if you do have a fear about coming in, here are some tips:

  1. First off know that you are not alone. A lot of people have stayed away from the Dentist for many years for a variety of reasons including fear, and neither the Dentist nor their staff should ever make you feel bad about that – if they do, consider switching.
  2. Let the staff know up front that you’re apprehensive and what of. Some people hate the shots. Others hate the noise of the drill. Others are gaggers and hate impressions. And some hate everything about it! But let your office know so that accommodations can be made to make your experience the best it can be. After all we’re all here to keep you as healthy as possible.
  3. Sedation Dentistry has been a buzz word for several years now. Sedation has been around far before that phrase became a popular marketing tool but in different forms. The most common sedation performed by Dentists is inhalation sedation (the gas) or Oral Conscious Sedation (the pill). Now some Dentists do IV sedation but they’re rare. That’s the only way you can be “knocked out.” Frankly I’m not a huge proponent because of the fact that in most cases the Dentist is monitoring everything including trying to work. When you go into surgery is the surgeon also doing your anesthesia? No – an anesthesiologist is. There’s a reason for that. But sedation in whatever form can be very effective to help get you through a dental procedure. In fact, I would be willing to bet I have patients who come in just for the nitrous!

So if you are one of those who has a fear of coming in, just know that an absence of pain does not necessarily mean an absence of disease. The sooner problems are identified, the easier and less costly the fix.

To your happy and healthy smile – Dr. Schwab

1 Response

  1. Danielle Lanier
    My main fear of getting dental work done stems from a fear of choking or of not being able to breathe due to, well, just having all these tools and various things in one's mouth. Came in earlier today to y'alls office and while it was really just x-rays and some pre-treatment work, I am happy to say I had a very positive experience. :) I look forward to returning and getting the rest of the work I need done.

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