About 75% of adults in the United States experience fear or anxiety about going to the dentist. And of that 75%, about 3-16% have fear strong enough to be considered a specific dental phobia. That leaves a lot of people unwilling or unable to maintain good oral health because they can’t walk through their dentist’s front door.
At GEMS Dental in Houston, Texas, Dr. George Saliba understands that dental anxiety is a real phenomenon and must be taken seriously. He specializes in sedation dentistry, where patients are given a range of calming options so he can perform any procedure from a cleaning to a dental implant without anyone climbing out of the chair.
As we’ve mentioned, dental anxiety is common. The market research firm DentaVox surveyed 18,000 people worldwide, and they discovered that 61% of those surveyed indicated they suffered from dental fear, and 4% of them said they’d never even been to a dentist. They also found fears were divided roughly as follows:
The first line of defense against dental anxiety starts in the waiting room. Most dentists now shy away from the “sterile white” setting and decorate their offices with furniture and appliances in bright, cheerful, welcoming colors. They may also play background music to give you something other than the office on which to focus your attention.
In addition, “painless dentists,” as they’re often called, attend emotional intelligence and empathy-promoting conferences, the results of which they pass on to their assistants and administrative staff in an effort to make all aspects of your appointment comforting.
Technology and behavioral science, too, have both developed to the point that they can assist dentists in their efforts to alleviate dental anxiety. Painless injection systems and noise-reduced drills are just two of the many advances. And providing patients with 3D glasses and headphones to keep them entertained while the work is being done has become a well-accepted practice.
Medications are also a mainstay for calming dental anxiety. There are three major types:
As the name suggests, oral sedation involves swallowing an anti-anxiety pill before your dental treatment. Two of the most common drugs are Valium and Xanax, both of which reduce your fear response. These medications usually last long enough for the dentist to complete a full mouth restoration, and they may also help alleviate post-treatment discomfort.
Also commonly referred to as “laughing gas,” this gas is a mild sedative delivered along with oxygen through a small nose mask. The gas can either put you to sleep or allow you to enter a state of deep relaxation. Once the mask is removed, the effects wear off shortly, and most patients feel no lasting effects.
An anesthesiologist delivers the sedative through an intravenous line directly into your bloodstream, and he or she monitors your vital signs throughout the procedure. The amount used is very small, but it generally knocks you out, so you’re unaware of what’s happening in your mouth. You’ll definitely need someone to drive you home from your appointment.
Patients benefit from sedation dentistry in a couple of important ways. From a welcoming environment to distraction techniques to medication, we at GEMS Dental do everything within our power to alleviate any fears you may have about your cleaning, procedure, or just getting into the office. And we’ll even describe everything to you in full detail so you won’t have any surprises.
Plus, the calmer you are at your appointments, the better your long-term oral health will be. You’ll come in for preventive cleanings, get small cavities filled before they become large ones, and breeze through getting an implant if you’re missing a tooth. With a brighter, healthier mouth, your self-esteem and self-confidence will rise, and you’ll be happy to show off your pearly whites.
Do you have dental anxiety? Are you putting off getting your mouth treated because of fear? Call GEMS Dental at 281-607-1851 or schedule an appointment online. Rest assured we’ll do everything we can to make you comfortable and healthy.