"I gave your receptionist my car keys so I couldn't leave," he said. My new patient was white as a sheet. His voice was shaking as he described his dreadful toothache that finally brought him to my dental chair. I soon realized that the tremor in his voice and pallor of his complexion was not caused by pain, but by his deep fear of dental treatment. As I glanced at his chart, I was astonished to see what he did for living. Sitting in my chair was a policeman who not only worked as an undercover drug agent, but was a member of the bomb squad, as well. This man could fool a drug dealer or calmly face a live, ticking bomb, but was afraid of me.
It is a fact that nearly one half of all Americans rarely, if ever, go to a dentist. Anxiety about dental procedures seems to be the primary reason for avoiding dental chair. Unfortunately, people who avoid the dentist often end up in up in a dental office as an emergency patient with the same amount of pain this man was experiencing. The treatment then becomes more complicated and expensive because the problems have become extreme.
My new patient described a terrible childhood experience in his dentist's office when a cavity was filled without enough Novocain. This event kept him away from dentists for thirty years. To help relieve his fear of dentists, I gave him the following five tips to help overcome dental anxiety. Maybe they will help you, too.
1. First, appreciate the central role your mouth plays in every day life. So many of life's pleasures involve the mouth, from eating and drinking, to laughing, talking and kissing. When we have discomfort in our mouths, every aspect of our lives is affected. And then, of course, there is appearance. A person's smile is one of the first things people notice. Embarrassment from unsightly teeth can significantly lower self-confidence.
2. Know how much the dental profession has changed. New inventions have completely revolutionized modern dentistry. Amazing new materials and technologies allow today's dentists to make your teeth look great, last longer, and function better than anyone could have imagined even a decade ago. And, dentists can work miracles on teeth quickly and quietly while the patient is completely comfortable. Some of the high-tech goodies available include: computer controlled Novocain, laser treatments, "air abrasion" to fill cavities without needles or drilling, the intra-oral camera so you can see for yourself how your teeth look, and ceiling TVs to distract you with videos while the dentist works.
3. Find a dentist who will give you the time and attention needed to calm your fears. The staff should add to the supportive atmosphere of the office by knowing your name when you arrive and being happy to see you.
4. Relate your fears to your dentist because verbalizing these concerns is the first step in overcoming them. It also enables the dental team to provide the specific attention you need.
5. Have your dentist clearly explain the procedure he plans to use to solve your dental problem. By understanding what is going to happen, your fears will be diminished. Your dentist will also help you avoid future problems by showing you how easy it is to take good acre of the teeth you have.
I am happy to relate that my new patient, the police officer, is now an old patient and an office favorite. His dental problem was cleared up, and his fear of dentists is finally gone. He comes in regularly to have his teeth cleaned and checked. I fully expect him to celebrate his 90th birthday by flashing a winning smile as he orders steak and corn on the cob for dinner.
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"Who would have thought that getting a crown could be so easy?? Dr. Caven's in-office machine created my crown while I waited, which meant no need for a second appointment--something that I greatly appreciated! The office staff is kind, calm, efficient and accommodating--just like Dr. Caven himself."- Chace B., JUL 2014
"Dr. Caven is definitely not your average dentist; not by a LONG shot."- Anon, APR 2014