It is estimated that approximately 75% of Americans experience some level of anxiety in anticipation of visiting the dentist. Of that group, about five to ten percent have a great fear that would categorize them as sufferers of dentophobia, or dental phobia. This fear is characterized by avoidance of dentists or dental procedures. Symptoms of dentophobia may also include tension or trouble sleeping the night before a dental appointment, feelings of physical illness, extreme nervousness while in the waiting area, and panic or trouble breathing when tools are placed in the mouth during an exam.
Many people will forego major dental treatment for decades and will endure gum infections, pain, or even broken teeth to dodge the dentist. Evading regular dental care may take an emotional toll as well. According to the Faculty of the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, “People with dental phobia have a higher risk of gum disease and early tooth loss. Discolored or damaged teeth can make people self-conscious and insecure. They may smile less or keep their mouths partly closed when they speak. Some people can become so embarrassed about how their teeth look that their personal and professional lives begin to suffer. There is often a serious loss of self-esteem.”
Reilly Dental understands the importance of a consistent and ongoing oral health plan. Doctors Tom and Susan Reilly and staff take time to educate clients and promote dental options that will encourage even the most terrified patient to call on their office. First, recognition of the potential roots of dentophobia, which vary for each person, provides knowledge in which to combat the fear. The most common cause is pain or a previous negative experience at the dentist’s office. This reason is most likely given in adults 24 years and older who may have had an uncomfortable encounter before advances in more pain-free dentistry. Drs. Tom and Susan Reilly want their patients to know that a safe, comfortable relaxation method does exit and dental treatment does not mean pain.
If dentophobia prevents you from taking control of your dental health, then it may be time to consider moderate or oral sedation. Drs. Tom and Susan Reilly suggest a consultation to see if this is a suitable treatment option for you. What does treatment look like? Dr. Reilly explains it. “The dentist will select an appropriate anti-anxiety or sedative drug for you to take at a predetermined time before your appointment. These safe, widely-prescribed drugs diminish anxiety and help patients relax.” What happens next? Depending on the necessary dosage, most patients will become so relaxed they may drift into a restful sleep during their procedure but be easily awakened with a gentle shake. The benefit of oral sedation in contrast to deep sedation and general anesthesia is that it is possible for the patient to remain responsive, alert, and able to communicate with the dentist depending on level of sedation. Patients can rest assured that they are being well monitored throughout their procedure. It is important to have a family member or friend accompany the patient to and from the appointment and stay until the sedation wears off.
Patients may also choose oral sedation if they have a sensitive gag reflex, have trouble feeling numb after receiving local anesthetic, or cannot rest comfortably in a dentist’s exam chair due to neck or back problems. If you believe you are a candidate for oral sedation, contact the kind and concerned staff of Reilly Dental for an evaluation.