One of the benefits of modern medicine and technology is that there are now a variety of biological and psychological tools available to dentists to minimize the pain and anxiety that can be associated with dental procedures.
At Parkview Dental (www.parkview.me), one of the things I concentrate on, aside from great results, is making dental visits as pleasant as possible.
Anxiety and Fear Concering Dentists and Dental Work
Right off, let’s agree that some anxiety about dental work is warranted. It costs money and, hey, needles may be involved. Check and check. However, a significant number of patients really suffer from anxiety about upcoming dentist visits. I take patient anxiety very seriously (see my story below).
At Parkview Dental, there are a few non-pharmacological things we routinely do to reduce anxiety:
- We will generally do a consultation visit to determine how the course of treatment will proceed. At this consultation, we will discuss the precise procedures to be completed at the next visit and address any concerns the patient may have.
- We always schedule adequate time for patients, but if we know there is some anxiety we increase the appointment time so nothing feels rushed.
While I have been trained in behavioral techniques to reduce anxiety, we do understand that some patients will require a less conservative approach:
- We can prescribe an anti-anxiety medication for the patient to take prior to the appointment to ease any stress during the visit. These drugs can also be used to allievate the stress patients have before arriving at a dentist’s office.
- Parkview Dental has Nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) equipment on-site. Nitrous oxide has been used in dentistry since 1844 and has both an analgesic and anxiolytic effect –meaning that it not only decreases anxiety but also causes a subsequent, albeit minor, decrease in the feeling of pain. It is available at our office for any procedure at the request of the patient (unless medical history makes it inappropriate).
Patient anxiety is near and dear to me as I have a phobia I have trouble controlling: bees. During a track and field race as a kid, I ran through a field in which a hive had apparently fallen and was stung by dozens of bees. Now, I don’t handle the sight of bees so well. On a trip to Greece, during dinner at a quiet seaside taverna in Naxos, my husband returned from the lavatory to discover that I had overturned our entire dinner table (with our newly-arrived dinner on it) because a bee “flew right at me”. As a result, when a patient expresses anxiety about getting work done, I listen.
The reality is that the term “painless dentistry” is not entirely truthful. With few exceptions, pain from some dental procedures can be minimized but not completely eliminated. For example, even when a treatment is rendered under general anesthesia, there can be pain associated with the injections necessary to induce the anesthesia. At Parkview Dental, we employ drugs and modern techniques to make any procedures as painless as possible. For example:
- We use injectible anesthesia. Drugs like lidocaine and septocaine have been used for many years in dentistry. Importantly, we reduce most of the pain of an injection by using modern techniques. With careful placement of a the needle, use of a small-gauge needle, a warmed anesthetic material and a little patience on part of the dentist, most of the pain can be eliminated. We recommend anesthesia for any procedure we believe will cause more discomfort than the needle.
- We use Oraqix. For those patients who have not been to a dentist in several years, often times a deep cleaning is necessary. This is to rid the oral cavity of bacteria present in the pockets around teeth. This procedure can be uncomfortable, so I generally recommend the patient to be anesthetized. Oraquix is a needle-less, anesthetic used for scaling and root planning / deep cleaning procedures. It is the only FDA-approved medicament of its kind.
Although other needle-less anesthetic products exist, I don’t use them in my practice because I have found them to be not painless, as although the discomfort is less, the application method causes discomfort over a longer period.
All in all, however, technology and modern procedures have progressed to the point that we are able to make even difficult procedures almost entirely painless.
Visit our website at www.parkview.me or call Parkview Dental of Westfield at (908) 264-8335 to schedule an appointment or learn more about our practice.