Fear of the Dentist
Everybody—including those of us who work in dentistry—is anxious when s/he is sitting in the dental chair. It is a universal reaction. But, you say, you are so fearful that you cannot make yourself go to the dentist even though you have serious problems needing attention. Here are some suggestions.
First, call and make an appointment for your best time of the day, when you have the most coping ability. Tell Patty that you just want to talk to Dr. Newsome, that you have fears, and you are not sure you can tolerate having any actual work done.
Second, bring a supportive, empathetic friend or family member with you. S/He will be invited to stay with you. Do not bring young children or any other source of stress or responsibility. This time is all about you.
At your appointment, we will look at your situation, i.e. what you are facing. Sometimes, people have very distorted ideas about what their dental problems actually are. You do not have to have 6 crowns on your front teeth to give you that “perfect” smile if that is too overwhelming. Maybe what you need is to have some cavities filled and perhaps a discolored filling replaced.
Some people are hugely concerned because they have a broken tooth that requires extraction. That may be a 5-minute procedure! The point here is to define what it is that you are facing; maybe it is extensive work, but it may be something much more limited.
A question that we have asked many fearful patients is “What is the worst thing that could happen today?” They will say, “I hate needles” or “Is this going to hurt?” Let’s be honest; injections with needles hurt! But it is not intolerable pain, and it lasts for seconds. This is not 23 hours of labor or 3 months of the shingles or 10 years of arthritis! After you get numb, there is very little or no pain. There may be pushing and pressure, obnoxious sounds, vibration, or water squirted in your mouth, but those sensations are very different from pain. And you can do this!
During this first visit, if you wish, you can have your teeth charted and x-rayed. It will be very difficult to recommend specific treatment without this information, so you are encouraged to get to this point if possible. Then, we can talk about the treatment that is necessary, what would be helpful, and what would be nice!
So now we get down to brass tacks. You are going to come into the office for treatment, and you are afraid. We can talk about whether a mild anti-anxiety medicine would be helpful. Another possibility is to have your dental work done under nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”). Nitrous is a very safe gas that you breathe through your nose, and it relaxes you. It doesn’t numb you; it takes the edge of the anxiety away. While nitrous increases your cost, if fear is keeping you from having your dental work done, it is well worth it!
Bring your supportive friend; leave your children at home. You can decide if you want to tackle one procedure only or go for all we can do in one sitting. If you want to use nitrous, you will be asked to come in early to get started on nitrous before the procedure starts. We ALWAYS use topical (numbing jelly) on the tissue before the injection.
Some of the anxiety associated with dental work is undoubtedly the cost. We can help you plan a practical course that will allow you to get your dental work done. Over the years, we have seen a number of people come in once every two months, have one procedure done, and over the course of two years, get all their work completed and achieve dental health!
You can do this!