Do You See Dental Care As A ‘Pain?’

posted: May 24, 2018

When I go to the eye doctor for my annual eye exam, it’s usually one of my least favorite items to check off my healthcare to-do list. Having my pupils dilated, that puff of air shot at my eye ball, and sitting still while a bright light blares into each eye is no fun. However, I see my vision as not only a vital part of living a full and active life. As a dentist, having good vision is vital.

Having an annual eye exam is an appointment most people want ‘over and done with’ quickly. But, like many medical screenings and checkups, we know it’s wise to take the time. Dental checkups, although not something most people look forward to, are also important to your health and well-being. Plus, these twice-a-year dental visits are structured to help you avoid or minimize time and expenses for treatment that can occur without regular care.

Fortunately, these visits typically require only an hour or so of your time. In our office, we try to minimize wait time and use advanced skills and technology to create more efficiency while optimizing comfort. This certainly makes dental visits more appealing for all patients. Yet, for people who do struggle with dental fear, these visits require far more of them than just setting aside the time needed for each visit.

I have decades of experience helping patients who have anxiety or fear (and even dental phobia) to be able to relax through dental treatment. Some have been able to overcome their fears altogether. While I don’t claim to convert them into dental appointment ‘fans,’ I will say that a large percentage go from a sense of dread and ‘white knuckled’ tension to walking in with a smile and leaving with a smile, having completed their appointment without dealing with the grip of fear.

In our nation, periodontal (gum) disease effects over 47 percent of adults – a staggering statistic when you consider how easy it is to prevent. Gum disease occurs from the over-accumulation of oral bacteria that cause inflammation. Gum disease is the leading cause of adult tooth loss. Yet, oral health is not the only thing compromised because of gum disease.

These potent bacterial organisms can enter the bloodstream and trigger inflammation elsewhere in the body. Research has shown they can cause reactions that have been linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, preterm babies, some cancers, erectile dysfunction and Alzheimer’s disease. As more research is conducted, new findings keep connecting oral bacteria to more and more health problems, some that are deadly.

With that said, our nation sadly has far more people who are nervous or afraid of dental visits than not. It is estimated that over 70 percent of adult have some level of dental anxiety or fear. Because this fear prevents some people from being able to receive regular dental care (often delaying treatment until pain forces them), it’s to no surprise that so many suffer with gum disease. As mentioned prior, it’s nearly half of our adult population.

Although we offer both oral and IV sedation (twilight sleep), all patients (in our office) enjoy the benefits of a number of comfort options. In addition to a gentle touch, we’ve invested in a wide variety of advanced technology that reduces treatment time and enhances comfort. (Even our drills are designed to eliminate that dreadful, high-pitched whine, with a gentle humming sound instead).

We also pace each patient’s care to match individual needs. Some people are happy to move through treatment in one or two appointments while others wish to proceed in small steps. We are also careful to communicate what is being done in their mouths, and why. This is reassuring to patients, especially those with fear issues. They may ‘perceive’ pain when there is unknown action taking place that they can’t see.

We encourage anyone who has dental fear or anxiety issues to begin with a private conversation at no charge. This consultation is just a chat. I take the time to learn the unique concerns of each individual and make recommendations based upon those concerns. From there, we can determine the most comfortable way to proceed. Or, they may choose to do nothing for the time being. The choice is in the hands of the patient. We are not here to nudge someone into treatment, but rather to support them when they are ready.

If you would like to schedule a private, no cost consultation, call 843-871-6351. From the very first conversation on the telephone, I’m certain you’ll understand why so many once-fearful people have chosen us to help them achieve healthy, confident smiles.