Did you know that it is estimated that as many as 58% of US adults have some degree of dental phobia? I ask myself constantly where this anxiety comes from - is it from a past dental experience, negative dental propaganda or something much larger. I tend to ask my anxious patients what exactly about dentists or dental offices make them uncomfortable. In older generations I cannot tell you how many times and stories I have heard about their dental phobia stemming from when they were children. Dental insurance was not always (and is still not always) a benefit available to most people and chances are even if you had it, your dentist did not accept it. Most families could not afford regular dental care and would therefore wait until there was a dental emergency before going to see good ol' Dr. Rootcanal (kidding, of course). Prolonging these visits to when someone in the family was in discomfort only made the situation worse. On occasion, a families could not afford the anesthesia used to avoid discomfort, this made for and extremely uncomfortable procedure. If something got too uncomfortable or if the patient would not hold still, some dentists would use a papoose board to strap the patient down. In these unfortunate situations, the patient, usually a child, had no control. Dentists were/are portrayed as cold, calculated and uncaring for shock value in movies and sadly dental instruments were used as torture devices by some very bad people in history. Luckily - our industry has changed, a lot.
The most reliable way to help a patient deal with dental phobia, is to give control back to the patient. We do not confine patient to their dental chair or the operatory. I highly recommend you allow me to treat you in the operatory, but if you need to stop and get up and move around, take a break - you are allowed to do so as often as you may need. Waiting rooms and operatories are designed with a more welcoming, comfortable feel. In-office amenities such as noise cancelling headphones, televisions, and music are available for your comfort. These things will help keep your mind off of the dental room As with most phobias, there are many way to conquer your fear; solutions such as meditation, guided imagery, acupuncture are in my opinion among the more extreme and may not be the answer for everyone. If those aren't for you - gentle sedation such as nitrous oxide (N20 or laughing gas), moderate sedation such as oral medications and total sedation using IV medications (take me to dream land) are always options. Rest assured, we can and will do our best to make you comfortable no matter the degree of dental phobia you may have experienced, and most importantly I will always take the time to listen and provide recommendations.