Almost everybody gets the jitters when it comes to visiting the dentist. Ask anyone on the street in Glen Ellyn, or anywhere in the Chicago area. It’s estimated that 60% of people report some kind of worry or outright fear of the dentist.
There are lots of reasons for this, almost as many as there are people, but they fall under four major categories:
It might have been a traumatic incident in a dentist’s office that happened in the distant past. Even though dentistry continues to evolve at an incredible rate, many people can’t help but think of the dentist’s office as something out of the medieval era.
Other people believe what they see in movies and television, like Steve Martin’s character in “Little Shop of Horrors” . It’s a great little musical, and while Martin’s portrayal of a “mad dentist” is certainly fun to watch, it hasn’t done many favors for us in the dentistry field.
What’s their mascot? One of our biggest challenges is the growing number of recent “graduates” from Google University. While we’re big fans of patients educating themselves about the procedures and technologies we employ, there is a lot of bad information out there, and people can “freak” as a result.
Of course, some people are just anxious: it’s part of who they are, and they’ll be skittish about anything.
Whatever the reason, if you’re afraid of the dentist, you shouldn’t let that stop you from taking care of your teeth.
The thing with teeth is they never just “get better” after years of neglect or serious injury. Without proper treatment, they only get worse. Some people are able to weigh this out and can at least force themselves into the chair.
Unfortunately though, many people simply can’t do it, and that’s where sedation dentistry comes in.
What’s Sedation Dentistry?
For those who simply can’t handle being in the chair, sedation dentistry allows them to be more comfortable by helping them relax. Some people even need to be “out” to sit through an appointment, and we can help there, too.
There are lots of different methods of sedation that we use here at Smile Glen Ellyn. Here’s a cheat sheet to help you understand your options:
This is the form of sedation that most people are familiar with. “Laughing Gas” is actually nitrous oxide, and it’s a proven way of helping patients relax so that they can sit in the chair and handle whatever procedure comes their way.
If you haven’t had “laughing gas” before, here’s what to expect:
A “mask” will be placed over your nose. The nitrous oxide is mixed with oxygen and it goes through tubes attached to the mask.
You’ll get a brief, light “high” that helps you relax. It goes away quickly after we remove the mask and you’re exposed to normal air again.
Laughing Gas won’t “conk you out”; you’re still conscious, just more relaxed.
If you’re only mildly anxious about seeing the dentist, this might be your option, or if you have a strong gag reflex. In some cases, the gas can be paired with oral sedation.
Oral sedation is one of the more recent advances in sedation dentistry, and it’s been successful for a great many patients, especially for minor procedures.
Oral sedation represents an advance in dental pharmacology. No masks, no needles, just two pills. If you require oral sedation, you’ll take one pill an hour before your appointment, and one more just before your treatment actually starts.
Most people only need the two pills, but your dentist might administer more if it’s appropriate. This could effect the timing of your treatment, so make sure to discuss this with your dentist in detail.
Oral sedation is stronger than gas, so it’s more effective for people who have more anxiety than most people, or those who have a hard time getting “numb”. Oral sedation allows us to get more work done faster.
Oral sedation is fairly new, and because it is a drug, it must be administered carefully by a dentist certified in its use. Here in Illinois, only 2% of dentists are actually licensed to provide oral sedation, and we’re part of that small group.
Make sure any dentist you visit is licensed if you’re considering any kind of sedation!
If nitrous oxide or oral sedation aren’t enough to help you feel comfortable in the chair, Smile Glen Ellyn also offers IV, or intravenous, sedation.
This is the most advanced and most powerful sedative available in dentistry, and like oral sedation, it requires very special licensing that only a few dentists in Illinois have; we are licensed to provide IV sedation.
If you need IV sedation, it’s either because physiologically, you can’t receive other, less intense methods:
- Your gag reflex is especially strong
- You’re allergic to certain drugs
- You have a severe medical condition
Of course, it’s also great if you need to have a lot of work done, either because you simply need a lot of work, or you’d like to reduce the number of appointments you need to make and keep.
However, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that your anxiety about going to the dentist is so severe, it might even be classified as a phobia.
It’s estimated that 5% to 8% of Americans have dental anxiety that is so bad, they avoid going to the dentist entirely. This will definitely lead to reduced oral health and more intensive dental procedures, to say nothing of the knock-on effects in other parts of the body due to poor oral health.
If this sounds like you, IV sedation might be the best option for you. Keep in mind that this technique produces what we call a “profound state of relaxation”. None of the techniques we employ will knock you out, or “put you to sleep”. You will still be aware of what’s going on, but you’ll just be very, very relaxed, and able to withstand the procedure.
The “Magic” Wand
On top of all these techniques, we offer what’s called “The Wand” for the delivery of local anesthetic.
Everyone who’s had a filling, root canal, or any moderately serious dental procedure knows “The Needle”. It’s big, it’s metal, and it hurts, mostly because the pressure of the numbing agent being pushed by the syringe is pretty intense.
“The Wand” on the other hand uses a computer to control the pressure and the flow of anesthetic as well as it’s temperature. This greatly reduces discomfort while speeding the effect of the anesthesia.
Novocaine has also been replaced in our office by a new anesthetic called Articaine, which does its job better than novocaine ever could.
Don’t Let Dental Anxiety or Phobia Keep You From Good Oral Health!
No matter how scary the dentist is to you, it will never be scarier than what can happen if you neglect your teeth.
Always remember: We have nothing to fear but fear itself!
If dental anxiety or phobia has kept you out of the chair and prevented you from getting and keeping your best smile, please make an appointment. It’s just a click away with our handy online appointment form, or you can call us at 630-858-8800.