“Sleep Dentistry” Takes The Anxiety Out Of Dental Care

posted: February 25, 2019

If you find yourself “jittery” in the dental chair or have ever had a “white-knuckled” grip during appointments, don’t feel you are in the minority. Unfortunately, an estimated 70 percent of American adults have some level of anxiety or fear when it comes to going to a dentist. 

Even worse, about a third of these adults have such deep levels of fear that they’re classified as ‘dental phobics.’ These are people who find it difficult to even call a dental office. Some have avoided dental care for decades.

Some people are unable to pinpoint where such fears originated. However, the majority of these fears are the result of traumatic dental experiences in the past (often as children).

Those with severe levels of dental fear often avoid dental care until they have an emergency need. Typically, the discomfort becomes so intense that it forces them into a dental chair for treatment. What I often see, at this point, are problems that could have easily been avoided had they been able to receive regular check-ups and cleanings.

Regardless of an individual’s level of fear, we know it’s vital that every patient feels a sense of trust that we won’t subject them to pain. We commonly start with a conversation in our consultation room. This room is away from the clinical side of the office so you won’t hear sounds or see a treatment chair.

During this time, we are seated in comfy armchairs in a private setting. We discuss your oral needs and goals, particular concerns (including dental fears) and what you want to accomplish when your oral health has been restored. For fearful patients, however, our first goal is to assure each one that comfort is a priority at all times in our office.

I explain the various options we use for enhanced comfort. Since many people are uneasy about dental visits before they walk into a dental office, I may recommend oral sedation. In pill form, oral sedation is highly-effective and safe.

Before the patient is seated in a treatment suite, the medication has taken effect. Patients relax as they ease into a state where many doze in and out. I administer numbing medication to the areas being treated so there are no worries about discomfort. Sedated patients are also monitored by a trained staff member along with advanced monitoring equipment to ensure safety and comfort.

An advantage of oral sedation is its ability to erase most or all memory of treatment afterwards. Fearful patients like knowing this. Occasionally, a patient may share later on that they recall hearing the sound of my voice during treatment, but most have no memory of their time while in the treatment chair.

Patients also like that oral sedation has a quick recovery time. After a brief nap at home, most patients feel refreshed and back to normal within hours. Although I am certified to provide I.V. sedation, also referred to as “twilight sleep,” it does require a longer recovery time (even though it’s within 24-hours) and is a bit more costly than oral sedation.

Oral sedation is a practical way for fearful adults to have dental care while being totally relaxed before and throughout treatment. In addition to achieving the healthy, confident smile you desire, a healthy mouth plays an important role in your overall health. Research has shown that oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream through weakened tears in inflamed gum tissues. This bacteria has been linked to heart disease, memory loss, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and some cancers.

We are always pleased to watch once-fearful patients overcome their fear altogether. Often, after one or two visits with oral sedation, patients feel they no longer need sedating. If fear prevents you from a healthy, attractive smile, begin with a friendly phone call at 843-871-6351 or tap here to request a no-charge consultation.