The number one thing that keeps half of the population in the entire country from going to the dentist is fear. Usually based on childhood experiences, the fear is very real and needs to be acknowledged.

I would say that in the past 20 years, most dentists are aware of this, and take the steps necessary to make their patients as comfortable as possible. For the extremely fearful, Conscious Sedation is the number one choice between doctors and their patients. Once a diagnosis has been made and the treatment plan accepted, any treatment that needs to be done is performed in one visit. 

I.V. sedation is more potent than relying on taking oral medications. Special training is needed for both, and both will do the job. The patient is never at risk by being totally “asleep” as with general anesthesia given in the hospital during some surgeries.

The effect of this sedation in the dental office is milder and it has an amnesic quality. The patient cannot recall what was done during their treatment visit.

Just about everyone has heard of laughing gas. The use of inhalation of nitrous oxide and oxygen also has a calming effect. The added benefit is that any effect can be immediately reversed by cessation of the nitrous oxide. The trick is to find the proper level for each patient.

The second cause of fear is the money. When you think about it, we all have a life-long need for things. We need clothes, housing, transportation and teeth. The only thing that is different about these life-long needs, is that most people do not have a budget for their dentistry.

It has been said that dentistry is not expensive, neglect is. For those in the latter category, long-term financing is available after using any dental insurance. For the elderly, their activity drops and many engage in only two things: eating and talking. Both require teeth.

The third fear is time. Usually this can be accommodated for any situation.

Regardless of which fear is keeping you from going to the dentist, just know you are not alone. There is help to get you past your fear. Having a worry-free healthy oral condition is a wonderful thing, and can be made available to everyone.

James G. Jenkins, D.M.D. is the owner of Bluffton Dental Care in Bluffton.