It’s no secret that many Americans dread going to the dentist – the site of drills and needles are enough to send anyone running! And when it comes to the fear of potential pain, extensive recovery time and insurance bills, many patients have opted to flee or even worse, avoid the dentist altogether.
Pain is often one of the leading causes of dental phobia – fear of dentistry or receiving dental care – and many Americans tend to avoid the dentist due to a previously painful procedure, the noise and pressure of a drill, or the stinging shot of anesthesia. Many of my patients who have a history of tooth decay are often the ones with the most anxiety.
The following are a few tips to help you explore new pain free dental options.
Dentists, just like patients, hate to see their patients uncomfortable. It’s in our best interest to create an environment with less stress and less pain. Many dentists are looking to new dental technology and techniques – such as calming lighting and music, sedation, meditation and breathing – that can offer some peace of mind to those with fear of dental pain and anxiety. One of the best advancements in new pain free dental technology is the dental laser. Dental lasers can treat common oral health issues – cavities, root canals and teeth lengthening – with less pain for patients.
Do your research, consult with patients who’ve had a number of laser procedures, and connect with a local dentist who’s using these technologies to learn more.
Aside from the clear benefit – the elimination of pain – dentists who focus on pain free dentistry take advantage of proven techniques and technology to help their patients. Early research from USC suggests that simple changes to the dental office environment can play a big role in easing tension and anxiety in patients, especially in autistic children. For example, dentists can replace fluorescent lights with softer and colored lighting, play soothing music and use butterfly wraps that provide calming deep pressure. Also, some dentists look to technology to help address patient fear. For example, many patients who undergo procedures with dental lasers report less pain and less need for anesthesia and say how much they like not hearing the uncomfortable noise of the drill.
Knowing your options and being comfortable with your dentist can help to calm your concerns about pain. Get recommendations from friends, family and co-workers. Set up a meeting with a potential dentist prior to having any procedures done to see what pain free technology he/she is using for patients. If you’re planning to move, be sure to ask your current dentist for recommendations in your new area.
Chances are your local dentist is not aware of your dental phobia, fear of pain or curiosity about pain free dentistry. Be candid with your dentist, share past experiences (both good and traumatizing) and let him/her know about the methods and technologies that you’re interested in. Use this time to request recommendations and discuss what you’re looking for this time around.
If you’re still hesitant about undergoing a pain free dental procedure, following a consultation with your local dentist, request to see patient pictures and testimonials. Also, if your dentist is willing, request to shadow a pain free procedure before undergoing one yourself. This will provide you with the opportunity to see some of these new technologies in-action and to ask other patients about their experience.
Many people have experienced mild to extreme pain at the dentist – or have heard horror stories from friends and family. Some experiences are more traumatizing than others, but you can’t allow this to keep you out of the dental chair. Avoiding the dentist can be more detrimental than you realize, as poor dental hygiene has been linked to a variety of health issues including heart disease, strokes, cancer and diabetes.
Be open to new pain free methods and technologies and if you’re nervous, consult with your local dentist or other patients who have undergone similar procedures – you can even bring in a family member for support! Taking this step forward will be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.
Similar to that brand new red Chevy Corvette on your local car dealer’s lot, there are many new dental advancements that make “shiny” claims about pain free dentistry, but may not be the best for you given your preferences.
Just like you wouldn’t settle for the first car on the lot, be sure to consult your local dentist and do your research before undergoing any pain free dental procedure. Look into your options and choose what’s right for you.
Given that many pain free dental techniques and technologies are relatively new to the market, your dentist may or may offer them yet. If your dentist does offer pain free dentistry, use this time to discuss the options available and benefits. In the case that you dentist does not offer pain free dentistry, be sure to ask him/her why, but don’t settle there. Explore your options and connect with other local dentists in the area who may be able to provide a second opinion.
Before undergoing any pain free dental procedure, be sure to connect with patients who’ve undergone similar procedures beforehand. You may want to ask questions such as, “On a level of 1 to 10, how much did your pain decrease?” When asking these questions, keep in mind that people have different pain tolerances. Be sure to give it a try before ruling it out or jumping to any conclusions.
Once you’ve decided to undergo a pain free dental procedure, don’t be afraid to reach out to your local dentists with questions. Send emails in advance, stop by your dentist’s office on your way home from work; whatever it takes to make you comfortable.
Embracing change is a big step, especially when it comes to the dentist. If you open up your heart (and mouth) to pain free dental options, you’ll be pleased with the outcome and the money and time that you save in the end.
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