I don’t take it personally when I see parodies or hear jokes about visiting the dentist. Dental offices can be intimidating if you had a bad experience, or if you simply have an innate fear of the dentist.
However, unlike the early days of dentistry, modern dentistry addresses the patient’s overall wellbeing, incorporates advanced technology, and uses effective pain and anxiety management techniques to provide the most comfortable experience possible.
Modern dental offices are equipped with technology that makes procedures faster, less invasive, more precise, and as comfortable as possible. This includes smaller, higher-speed instruments and laser therapy.
Intra-oral cameras and digital X-rays enable you to see exactly what is happening in your mouth in real time while in the dental chair. Having an inside look at what the doctor or hygienist is seeing can relieve stress and help you understand treatment plans based on what you see.
Fear of pain is likely the primary reason people avoid seeing the dentist. Patients laugh when I tell them that I don’t like being in pain either, but it’s true!
Pain associated with dental procedures is reduced with topical anesthetics, which numb an area so that a local anesthetic can be administered. When it comes to addressing anxiety and stress during procedures, we can use sedation with nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, or oral-conscious options in which an oral medication provides a deeper level of relaxation.
Some people fear the dentist because they perceive a lack of control while in the chair. To help, we always talk them through the procedure, explaining what is happening and what we are going to do next. We make sure they know we can stop at any time if they need a break.
Providing for the patient’s overall wellbeing begins in a calm and welcoming office setting. Many practices play soft music, display soothing colors and decor, and are staffed with a friendly and helpful patient care team.
We offer a comfort menu so our patients can choose complimentary amenities while in the chair, including a warm blanket, dark glasses to block bright lights, a TV for distraction, or lip balm to help with any dryness that may accompany the procedure.
New patients can arrange a tour of the office and meet the team before a first visit. This helps with fear by adding a greater level of comfort because they will be familiar with the space when they arrive for an appointment.
Some advice for the fearful: Make an appointment! Sometimes the hardest part is taking the first step, but the longer you wait, the more dental work you might require, so call as soon as possible.
Keep the appointment. Regular, professional hygiene cleanings not only make your teeth sparkle, but they help identify oral health concerns that can be addressed sooner.
Ask questions. There are no silly questions about what to expect at the dentist. The answers will help calm your nerves.
Matthew Mastrorocco, DMD is the owner and founder of ROC Dental Group, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head Island.