Dental Phobia: Is your fear of dentists harming your oral health?

Dental Phobia: Is your fear of dentists harming your oral health?

Dental phobia can be devastating. It has been estimated that 10%-20% of the North American population is dental phobic and upwards of 50% of us harbor some reservations about visiting the dentist. These feelings can lead to people avoiding their regular check-ups and hygiene visits thereby compromising their oral health.

In the worst cases of dental fear, people even avoid the dental office when in extreme pain and when their teeth literally fall out. Our sedation techniques can take you from a "twilight sleep" to simply "take the edge off" of your nervousness, all the way to a deep sleep (general anaesthesia). Drs. Isen and Nkansah and the Sleep for Dentistry team of registered nurses, dental hygienists, dental assistants and administrative staff have the training and experience to address your concerns and help to deliver treatment to you comfortably.

Sedation options include:
  • Nitrous oxide (laughing gas)
  • Oral sedation
  • Combination of oral sedation and nitrous oxide
  • Light intravenous sedation
  • Deep intravenous sedation
  • General anaesthesia with intravenous medications or inhaled agents

The type of work being done at an appointment is not necessarily the deciding factor for the type of sedation that you will receive. We will work with you to choose the method that suits you best.

Even if you think that sedation dentistry is not for you, rest assured that your comfort can still be achieved. Both Dr. Isen and Dr. Nkansah have been trained in advanced local anaesthetic techniques. In fact, they both teach these techniques to their professional colleagues.

If safety is your concern, numerous studies, including one done by Dr. Nkansah, have shown sedation in dentistry to be very safe. It is important to realize that your memory of the appointment and the time immediate after the appointment may be affected, but other than that, the vast majority of patients return to their normal activities the following day.

Maintaining a healthy oral environment is very important to one's overall well-being.

There have been recent links in the scientific literature concerning poor periodontal health (gum disease) and heart disease. The link between these two diseases may involve the plaque (and its bacteria) on our teeth and the plaque that can clog our arteries. Other more obvious perils of avoiding regular dental care include decay and other infections. Yet despite knowledge of these risks, people who are dental phobic still have trouble walking into a dental office.

Dental anxiety and phobia can develop in different people for different reasons.

Sometimes it is the result of past negative experience. This is common in adults who, in their childhood went to the dentist and had a procedure that caused them pain and anxiety. Historically, local anaesthesia (numbing) was not as predictive nor as profound as it is today. Children who have dental work now are not experiencing the discomfort during the procedures that their parents may have.

The first modern local anaesthetic, lidocaine, was developed in 1947. So, until recently, the emphasis in a dental appointment was to finish the procedure regardless of the discomfort. Today’s local anaesthetic techniques and formulations mean that discomfort is a thing of the past. The dentistry is better, because it isn’t rushed. The patient experience is better because it doesn’t hurt.

Our personalities sometimes contribute to our anxieties

Some of us simply have traits that make us uncomfortable in certain situations, like dental appointments. It really isn’t very different from other fears, like These people may also have a fear of heights or of airplanes or closed spaces, or other fears.

Finally, it is worth noting that there is a segment of the population for whom dental anxiety came from past appointments where they were not completely “frozen” (due to extra nerve pathways or infection or fear). These people have experienced some discomfort or pain in the past while having dental work done. A different, but related group has a sensitive gag reflex. This may have even led to vomiting in the dental office. For both of these groups, the unpleasant situation experienced in the dental office has created a phobia.

It takes a great deal of trust to allow someone to work in your mouth.

Your mouth is a very sensitive and intimate part of your body. This level of trust comes more easily for some than it does for others. If you are dental phobic, perhaps you have stayed away from the dental office for longer than you should have. This is a common characteristic. Sometimes embarrassment plays a role in dental absenteeism; the longer you stay away, the worse you know your oral health is, the more reluctant you become to visit the dentist.

If one or more of these scenarios apply to you, it is important to tell you that there are a wide range of methods available to you to help. At Sleep For Dentistry, we are well aware of the typical signs of dental phobia and are very sensitive in our treatment of you. Sometimes all that is needed is some distraction using devices such as TVs or music players. Maybe just some extra time and TLC is enough. But if you are dental phobic, these methods won’t be enough. If you need to have sedation for your dentistry, we offer a range of options from nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and/or oral sedation to intravenous (IV) sedation and general anaesthesia.

At Sleep For Dentistry, we are set up to treat dental phobic individuals.

We see, on a daily basis, the range of people from those who are slightly anxious to those who are so fearful that even entering the office causes discomfort. We can offer you the full spectrum of anaesthetic services.

Our staff is keenly aware of the unique needs of our patients and we do everything we can to make our patients are as comfortable and as relaxed as possible. We listen to what you tell us your needs are and this, we believe, goes a long way to make you more comfortable.

If you are dental phobic, the key step is contacting us or visiting us for the first time. Once you have gotten that far, we will give you the help that you need to complete your journey.