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Are You Afraid of the Dentist? Try Sedation Dentistry

By: Care Creek Family Dentistry  -  no responses  -  Blog, Dentist in Cave Creek, Learning Center

Sedation Dentistry in Surprise, Arizona

Cave Creek, AZ

Few of us will admit to not being a little anxious about going to the dentist. However, for some the prospect of just entering a dental office cripples them with fear. There’s a world of difference between the dental phobic and the patient who experiences a little apprehension just before a procedure.

The classic sign of a phobia is seen in ‘avoidance behavior’, where the patient does virtually everything possible to avoid the object of their fear. Dental phobics are often in extreme need of treatment; only overcoming their fear and seeking treatment when forced to do so by severe pain.

Call us at  (480) 488-9655 today to schedule your appointment.

Reasons for this fear are numerous; most relate their phobia to an unpleasant dental experience in childhood.

Usually the patient is aware that their fear is irrational, but feel helpless to do anything to change this.

Panic attacks are often associated with phobic situations; they include heart palpitations, a general feeling of sickness, nausea, uncontrollable shaking, and loss of consciousness.

Eventually these panic symptoms may cause the phobic more fear than their original phobia.

“I’m afraid to go to the dentist, what can I do?”
Don’t put it off. Take that first step and pick up the phone. Talk to your dentist about your fears. By developing a relationship with the dentist, you’re involving yourself in your own treatment plan. Your dentist will discuss options available to you that will help you control and decide your own treatment and  techniques that will help you relax and feel more comfortable during your visit.

Common Dental Fears:

Fear of dental treatment occurs for a variety of reasons. The following list highlights a few of the more common reasons sited by patients as to why they fear going to the dentist.

Fear of Injections – Many people are terrified of needles, especially when inserted into their mouth. Usually this fear stems from the thought that the needle will break off inside their mouth. Modern disposable dental needles which are used for local anesthetic injections are manufactured to a very high standard. If used properly, patients usually feel very little to no pain.

Fainting – A small percentage of the population will faint at the sight of a needle or syringe or indeed the thought of an injection. Clearly in known cases of fainting the patient should not be shown either the syringe or needle. The patient should also be supine [flat] while the injection is administered and they should be encouraged to eat an hour or so before treatment to maintain a high blood sugar level, which will help to alleviate some of the symptoms of fainting.

Fear That the Injection Will Not Work – Local anesthetic is always effective if it is injected in the correct anatomical area and given sufficient time to take effect. It works by blocking the nerve supply to the particular region under treatment.

Fear Due to a Previous Bad Experience, Common causes include:

  • Negative childhood dental experiences.
  • Local anesthetic not providing complete anesthesia.
  • A feeling of being trapped while treated.
  • Long dental procedures leading to jaw stiffness.
  • Fear of choking.

Fear of Local Anesthetic Side Effects, such as dizziness and fainting. Considering the number of dental injections given, there are remarkably few reports of any side effects. In fact, there have been only a few reports of true allergic reaction to local anesthetics.

Dislike of the Numbness Associated with the Local Anesthetic  – This is a common complaint but most people realize the benefits of LA far out way the numbness produced.

Fear of Unnecessary Treatment – Some patients may question the need for a particular treatment. All dentists should be able to easily show the problem to the patient either by using an x-ray, intra oral camera or patient mirror. An explanation of the treatment plan along with a reasonable estimate of cost should always be given.

Fear of Infection – Modern needles are sterile and designed for single use.

Unspecified Fear of Treatment – Often patients just aren’t sure why they’re frightened. Frequently, their fear stems from a combination of several of the above-mentioned factors.

Call us at  (480) 488-9655 today to schedule your appointment.

Suggestions for the Phobic Patient:

Find a sympathetic dentist and discuss the matter with him or her. When booking the appointment be sure to tell the receptionist that you are frightened and that you do not wish for any surgical treatment at the initial visit – just a chat!

At your first visit, let the dental team know about any concerns or questions you may have. Asking questions about your mouth and the proposed treatment will help remove some of the fear of the unknown and give you an opportunity to become more involved in your dental health. Most importantly, remember that your dental team is eager to work with you, not just on you.

There are many methods available to help you during treatment. These include techniques such as  General Anesthesia, Hypnosis, Intravenous Sedation, Inhalation sedation, Oral sedation, Psychotherapy or even just the support of close friends and family.

Types of Sedation:

  • Intravenous Sedation
    • Intravenous sedation is the administration of a sedative drug into the blood system in order to facilitate dental surgery in the highly anxious patient.
    • What Effect Does it Have? The sedative used produces a strong sensation of relaxation and well-being in the vast majority of patients.Even the most highly anxious patients are routinely treated with this technique.
    • How is it Given? The drug is injected into one of the superficial veins of the arm or hand. The injection is superficial and is usually quite painless.
    • Can Anybody have this Sedation? The vast majority of patients are medically able to have sedation, although some medical conditions, such as severe lung diseases, certain heart conditions, obesity or anorexia are contraindicated.
    • Is it Safe? Unlike general anesthesia, the patient remains conscious throughout the procedure. Thus, many of the potential dangers of general anesthesia are avoided.
  • Oral Sedation
    • The use of oral sedative drugs (drugs taken by mouth, ie tablets and syrups) has a long  history in dentistry. It is extremely difficult to predict how soon after taking an oral sedative that a patient is at their most sedated state. For this reason, oral sedatives have proven far from ideal. Some patients may take only several minutes to be fully sedated, while others may take much longer.
  • General Anesthesia
    • This is the ‘ultimate’ tool for the dental surgeon in treating phobic patients. In this procedure the patient is completely anaesthetised. Although this may at first sound like the most acceptable way for you to be treated, it should really only be performed as a last resort when other safer techniques have failed. Most dentists are reluctant to use general anesthesia due to the increased risk of treating patients under this modality.
  • Hypnosis
    • A skilled hypnotist and an experienced dental surgeon have been shown to produce great results with dental phobics.
    • The dental treatment may be preceded by one or more hypnotherapy sessions and sometimes the hypnotist can accompany the patient to their appointments.
    • Although often effective, it’s important to realize that not everyone responds to hypnosis.
    • Another important consideration is cost.
  • Psychotherapy
    • Psychotherapy has been used for many years in the treatment of phobias and anxiety-related disorders.
    • How is it done? The first step is usually the identification of the phobia’s origin. The psychologist will then attempt to desensitize the patient by slowly exposing them to the object of their fear. For instance, with the assistance of the psychologist, dental treatment may begin for a dental phobic with the performance of a simple cleaning
    • Some psychologists suggest that patients with a dental phobia sit in while the dentist treats other patients so that they become accustomed to the environment.
  • Family Support
    • Some people may find dental treatment easier to tolerate if it is performed in the presence of a close member of their family. If you think that this would help you, please don’t be afraid to discuss this with your dentist.

New Treatment Advances: 

Until recently most aids for the anxious patient have been drug related, such as sedation and general anesthesia.

A new device has shown much promise in providing drug-free relief for anxious patients. The device, known as the Alpha-Stim SCS, functions by passing electric waveform through the brain. This is quite painless and consists of nothing more than a couple of electrode ear clips. The patient is in control of the current; they can increase or decrease it as desired. The control unit is a palm sized box.The effect produced is a general feeling of well-being, relaxation, and heaviness.

The main advantage of this system lies in the rapid reversibility of its effects; as  soon as it’s switched off, it’s effect is instantly reversed. The patient is able to drive themseless home immediately afterwards and resume their normal daily activities. This is in contrast to drug-induced anesthesia and sedation which requires hours for the sedative effect to wear off.

We’re out participating at educational conventions and seminars throughout the year and we’d like to use this blog as a dental resource for our community of Cave Creek, AZ (and beyond). Of course, we welcome you to join the conversation. Suggest topics and ask those burning questions about dentistry that keep you up at night. Please feel free to contact me through the Cave Creek Family Dentistry  website. Remember, the advice provided here is intended to aid you in understanding some of the treatment options available. It is important to note that before beginning any course of treatment you should always see your dentist.

Call us at  (480) 488-9655 today to schedule your appointment.

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