Tips for the Dental Phobic Patient

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There are many people who experience dental anxiety.  It is estimated that 9-15% of the population has fear of the dentist. Some of the most common reasons for their fear is negative memories of past experiences, sounds and smells, cost, pain, general anxiety, the “drill” or “needle”, and being lectured.  If you are reading this and identify with fear of going to the dentist, you are not alone.  Many people wait until they absolutely have to go in due to pain or swelling, even though they value a healthy mouth.  Below are some ideas, as certainly this topic would require books to cover how to help anxiety and fear.

Who is your support system?  Can you share your feelings with your partner, friend or family member?  Not only is talking about it helpful, your support person can accompany you to your visit.  Seeing the face of someone you love helps create calm in a stressful situation.  Some find that simply having an accountability partner is helpful for getting out of the car, walking through the door and ultimately keeping scheduled appointments.  When people are nervous, they forget to ask their questions and cannot remember as much about what was discussed.  Your support person can fill in the gap for you.  For those who use a medication to reduce anxiety a driver friend ensures you reach your appointment and your home safely without a car accident.  If you are interested if an anti-anxiety medication would be right for you, ask Dr. Geisler at your first meeting.

A suggestion to reduce your dental phobia is to meet your future dentist before any official dental appointment.  You can request a short consult with Dr. Geisler, which is more like a discussion.  This consult is not in a dental room, but face to face in a regular looking office.  Some people like to tour the facility to increase comfort.  If afterwards, you are ready, a new patient exam can be scheduled.  More commonly, new patients begin by scheduling a one hour comprehensive visit.  It starts with Dr. Geisler meeting you in the reception area and talking privately in the consult room.   At that time, patients can express what they fear coming to the dentist if they want.  Many people are comfortable telling their stories, others may tell them in time as a trusting doctor-patient relationship is established. Together, we review your health history, your concerns, and discuss your dental history.  Many people say they hate going to the dentist.  Our goal is not to shame you and make you feel guilty.   It is a privilege to be on your team as you made the first move.

 Money is a concern for a large portion of the population.  What a person imagines their dentistry will cost is usually a wild guess, and the unknown dollar amount is what creates a stress.  When it comes to dentistry, treatment (preventative or restorative) can be an investment.  There are times when people are pleasantly surprised.  People often believe they must have lots of cavities because of the length since the last visit, only to find out they have none.  While there is no guarantee that the best treatment available is affordable for you, knowing is a start.  If there are alternative treatment options, we can discuss the pros and cons along with the fees.  Please talk with your dental team to find out if there is a possibility of a payment plan or if Care Credit can help.   What you may know, is that waiting on dental treatment only ever drives the cost up.  For example, a single surface cavity will enlarge in time, requiring more expensive dentistry.

Contrary to what some people believe, our dental professionals do not want you to feel pain just as much as you do not.  For this reason, Dr. Geisler has invested in training and methods to reduce and sometimes even eliminate that part all together.  For example, at our practice, we use specially formulated topical anesthetic from a pharmacy.  That is the gel that is placed on your gum tissues before receiving an injection.  It is much stronger than the average dental topical commonly used.   Because she cares, Dr. Geisler pays five times as much on this for our patients, without passing the fees on to you.  An easy numbing experience is the right way to do dentistry.  We also employ a computerized wand system to anesthetize the area to be worked on.  Most patients state they don’t even know they had an injection.  For those who hate “having their gums poked” during an exam or during a cleaning, we offer a specially created mouth rinse that numbs your gums (without a needle).  Interestingly, it also numbs tongues and soft palates, which helps reduce a gag reflex for our patients with a sensitive gag reflex with x-rays or impressions.

 For those who “hate the sounds”, a simple and effective solution is noise canceling headphones.  At Life Smiles Family Dentistry in Plymouth, MN, we have Bose noise canceling headphones in every room.  You can increase the volume on your choice of cable channels or even listen to your favorite music on your phone.  Having a video to watch is an effective visual distraction which makes the appointment go by faster.   When I was a child, I remember the smell of simply walking into the building.  Smells can be a strong trigger for your memories, and frankly it’s not pleasant in and of itself.  We take care to make our office not smell “like a dental office.”  We get compliments from visitors that it smells good when they walk in!  If you’d like to know where those “traditional” smells of dental offices come from, I can talk with you in detail about it, and how we completely avoid the sources.

Also Read : Why do my teeth feel fuzzy?

A recent story was shared with me by a woman who was strapped down as a child for fillings.  No wonder people develop fear!   You can be assured we restrain no one at Life Smiles.  For the people who want to see nothing and not know what is coming up, we can accommodate.  Some feel more in control when they know what to expect every step of the way.   We have both rooms that are not closed in (yet private),  and rooms that are completely private. Please communicate your preferences and be assured we listen to what you want.

I haven’t yet met someone who enjoy being “lectured”.  At Life Smiles we want to assist our patients without meanly pointing out things they did or didn’t do to get themselves into their current dental situation.  We often find people are well aware of what caused the problem.  Our job is not to judge, but to help.  Dr. Geisler and her team will co-diagnose with you, also creating awareness of the risks of leaving a problem untreated.  We discuss options of how a condition can be treated, along with future preventative care.  We are happy you made a positive decision to stop avoiding care due to anxiety and dental fear.  Even reading this far along in a blog about dental anxiety is a step to better oral health.   We understand that people may take years to do the agreed upon treatment plan, even sometimes years to come to a decision on what the desired plan will be.  A funny saying I like is “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is “one bite at a time.”   

Please read our reviews from our patients, we have a lot on Google.  Many patients have shared that we have helped eliminate their dental fears with simply doing what we do every day.  We care.