I’m Afraid of the Dentist

Yes, it is more common than I would like to think. People who had bad dental experiences as a child carry those experiences into adulthood as well as the associated anxiety. As a result, you may skip necessary dental visits. Of course, that doesn’t help you because infections can easily sneak into the mouth and if left undetected and untreated, can lead to toothaches, periodontal disease, and tooth loss.  If you are thinking about your teeth all the time, hiding your smile, have chronic bad breath, have draining infections, and toothaches, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

So what do you do? The answer may lie in the use of sedative medications during the dental visit. Our ultimate goal is to reduce the anxiety with medications initially and gradually move you to the point of experiencing the dental visit without the need for sedative agents.   It’s a gradual process, and it can be achieved.

There are three methods of sedation, oral medications, IV medications, and deep sedation or general anesthesia. Let’s cover each one:

  1. Oral medications–These are the simplest to administer and the least predictable in their outcome. When a patient in prescribed a pill, we have to wait 40-60 minutes for the pill to take effect. Sometimes, the pill at one strength may work on one day and may not work on another day in the same patient.
  2. IV conscious sedation–Your choice of dentists may be more limited because the dentist needs to have the license to administer IV medications in the office.  Unlike oral medications, we can control the sedation experience because if the patient needs additional medication, we can experience the effects within minutes.  You may have a reduced level of consciousness, but you still may be aware of the experience.
  3. Deep sedation–Deep sedation is administered by a medical anesthesiologist or by an oral surgeon (for example, removal of wisdom teeth) The office needs to be licensed for such sedation.  The advantage is that you are brought to a deeper level of sedation, and do not remember the dental visit. An additional advantage is that there is a doctor who is totally devoted to your anesthesia experience.

The dental experience is now better than ever. And as such, the bad experiences of the past are nearly gone. For those who suffered in the past, there is a way to get back into dentistry and enjoy the benefits of a healthy smile and the ability to chew again.

Lee N. Sheldon, DMD