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Tips for Managing Dental Fear or Phobia

At Designer Smiles, we understand that dental phobia is a real problem for many people.  The fear of a dental visit can prevent many from receiving the vital oral health care they desperately need.

We also know that good oral health is essential to good overall health.  You cannot be healthy if you have an unhealthy mouth.  That means that we want to help everyone manage his or her dental fear in a way that enables each one to receive excellent dental care.  Here are our recommendations.

Find a Great Dentist

One of the sources of fear of the dentist is the fear of receiving bad dental work.  We get it!  It is very difficult for a patient with no dental training to know the quality of the work they undergo.  So how can you know who is a great dentist?

There are a couple of telltale signs of a great dentist that you should be able to scope out.

Low Staff Turnover

Dental hygienists, dental assistants, and front office team members want to work in a practice that produces great dental work.  And they do know how to evaluate the quality of the work, so if it isn’t good, they would know it.  When these team members stick with a dentist for decades, you can trust that this dentist is producing excellent and compassionate dental care for her patients.

Long-Term Patients

Just as staff turnover matters, so does patient turnover.  When you talk to other patients in the lobby, ask how long they have been seeing this dentist.  In a great dental office, you are likely to hear that some people have seen this dentist for decades and would never go anywhere else.

Consistently Great Reviews

Did you know that people are more likely to write a review when they have had a bad experience than when they have had a good one?  That means that when an office is particularly bad, you will know it by their reviews.  That also means that when you find a dental practice with consistently great reviews, you have found one that provides consistently great care to its patients.

Build a Great Relationship with Your Dentist

Another source of fear of the dentist is the fear of undergoing unnecessary dental treatment.  Many people question whether they really need the fillings or crowns their dentist recommends.  Unfortunately, without some form of dental education, the patients cannot really know whether they need the work.  That’s where trust comes in.

You must find a dentist with whom you can build a trusting long-term relationship.  Trusting that your dentist genuinely cares about you and will only do both necessary and high quality dental work goes a long way in the fight against fear.

Trust takes time, and trust takes good communication.  At Designer Smiles, we strive to earn the trust of every patient who enters our doors.  We genuinely care for our patients, but we don’t expect you to simply take our word for it.  Give us a chance to prove it to you.

Start Small

Another very common source of fear of the dentist is the fear of pain.  We know that dental work has a bad reputation for causing significant pain and discomfort.  We recommend that our fearful patients start small.

Let’s begin with a visit with the dentist that involves no dental treatment.  We don’t even have to sit in the dental chair.  We can talk about your concerns, your dental history, and your fears about any needed dental work.  This is the first essential step in building trust via communication.

Then we can perform a non-invasive dental treatment like a professional teeth cleaning.  Our dental hygienists have been with Designer Smiles for decades, and our patients love them for their gentle and genuine care.

If you need any dental work, like fillings or crowns, then you will see Dr. Ann.  She makes every effort to give painless injections when they are necessary.  She performs all aspects of dental care with gentleness and efficiency.

Opt for Sedation

Another common source of fear of the dentist is the fear of the sensations of dental work: the sights, sounds, feeling, etc…  We can actually dull or eliminate your sensation of those unpleasant things with various sedation options.

Laughing Gas

Laughing gas, officially nitrous oxide, is an inhaled medication that reduces anxiety and fear.  It is not technically a sedative.  Rather, it relaxes the patients and dulls the sensations they experience.  People who breathe laughing gas for a dental procedure usually say that they are still aware of what is happening around them; they simply don’t care as much.

Laughing gas is the safest and mildest form of sedation for dental treatment.  The patient inhales the medicine through a nosepiece, and it produces a relaxing effect within minutes.  It does not cause any lingering, “hangover” effect, but instead the effects end completely with the inhalation of oxygen.  This means that patients can return to work or errands or childcare after having a dental visit with laughing gas.

Laughing gas causes some patients to experience nausea or vomiting, so the only pre-operative instructions are to not eat anything within two hours of your visit.  You do not need another adult to drive you to and from your visit.

Oral Sedation

Oral sedation is an option in which your dentist prescribes a pill that will make you sleepy and relaxed throughout your dental visit.  The medication is a relative of Valium, so it produces relaxation and sleepiness as well as a reduction in fear and anxiety.  The sedative does produce a lingering effect, so patients will typically go home afterward and sleep for the remainder of the day.  A responsible adult driver is necessary when someone is undergoing oral sedation.

Oral sedation is not the most predictable sedation option because people can respond to this oral medication differently.  Some people have a high tolerance for that class of drugs.  Others have other prescription medications that can affect the efficacy of the sedative.  It is a simple and inexpensive option, but it isn’t best for everyone.

IV Sedation

For patients with severe dental phobia, we may recommend intravenous sedation.  This method of administering a sedative medication through an IV actually provides the most predictable and successful sedation.  Dr. Ann Haggard is one of very few general dentists trained and certified to provide IV sedation in her office.  She underwent a rigorous course of study and training in order to be able to provide this service to her patients.

IV sedation is a great option for those who want to remember absolutely nothing about their dental visit beyond walking in and sitting down!

More Questions about Managing Dental Fear?

Call Designer Smiles today to schedule a visit with Dr. Ann.  She loves meeting potential new patients and answer questions they may have about our practice philosophy and how we care for our patients.