Are you scared of the dentist? Dentophobia – or fear of dental procedures – is very common. However, many people allow this fear to keep them from going to the dentist, which is dangerous for your oral health. Fortunately, many dentists have implemented new technologies that help make for a more pleasant experience. If you are affected by dental anxiety, check out some of the latest technology designed to improve your dental experience.
Here is just some of the latest technology found in many dental offices:
- Laser Drills: Laser drills remove cavities without having to numb the area first. Some laser drills, such as the Biolase Waterlase, use water to remove cavities. These types of “drills” are faster and more comfortable than fillings, and they are much less harsh on teeth. Laser drills can be used on patients of all ages for a painless cavity treatment.
- Digital X-Rays: Digital x-rays use less radiation and are more environmentally friendly than traditional
x-rays. You can see them immediately after they are taken, so it is easier for the dentist to explain the necessary treatment. This makes it easier for the patient to understand why certain procedures must be performed.
- Intra-Oral Camera: Similar to digital x-rays, intra-oral cameras allow you to view exactly what the dentist sees during exams. There is a screen that you can see while the dentist performs treatment that shows you what the dentist is doing. This also helps patients understand the need for treatment.
- Diagnodent: This laser scanner can detect cavities years sooner than previous technology allowed. It detects decay before it spreads and no painful poking or prodding is involved.
- The WAND: The wand is a new tool that allows anesthesia to be delivered painlessly. The majority of pain from anesthesia comes from the flow of anesthesia into your tissue – not the actual needle. The WAND is computer operated and provides a steady flow at an optimal rate for a more comfortable injection. It also provides a flow of anesthetic directly ahead of the needle, numbing your gum tissue before the needle pierces it, so you barely feel the needle.
Other Anesthesia Options
If the WAND is unavailable for your use and you need a procedure that requires an anesthetic, there are other options that can help make your experience more comfortable.
- Topical Anesthesia: Topical anesthesia is used in conjunction with a general injection. It is applied with a Q-tip to the area where the needle will be inserted. This is a painless numbing technique that numbs the injection area beforehand so that the patient does not feel the actual injection.
- Electronic Anesthesia: Electronic anesthetics are alternatives to injections. Typically, the dentist puts electrodes on the patient’s cheeks and transmits a numbing electrical current into the jaw. Cranial electrotherapy stimulation is one example of electronic anesthesia in which electricity passes through the brain to make you feel relaxed and heavy. In this type of anesthetic, you can control the intensity of the current until you find the most comfortable level for you.
- Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas): This is typically used as a supplement to other treatment and not as a replacement. Nitrous oxide is a numbing gas you can inhale that leaves you feeling relaxed and euphoric. It also wears off quickly so you will not be left numb for hours.
- Intravenous Injection: This is typically saved for extensive dental procedures; however, if you are feeling really anxious, it can be used to relax you before your appointment. Intravenous anesthesia is injected into a vein on your arm. It does not knock you out completely, but it does leave you feeling deeply relaxed.
Other Coping Methods
If the advanced technology most dentists use nowadays isn’t enough to calm your nerves before your appointment, try using one of these methods to help you relax while you’re in the chair.
- Distraction: Listen to music while your dentist works or bring something else to help distract you. Some dentists provide distractions, such as virtual-reality goggles. There are even dentists that use therapy dogs to help cure anxiety at the office.
- Relaxation Techniques: Use one of the following relaxation techniques to help you relax at the dentist:
- Guided Imagery: Imagine a relaxing scene and pretend you are there. The more you focus on the details of your imaginary place, the less likely you are to be aware of what is happening inside your mouth.
- Deep Breathing: Breathing slowly in and out floods your body with oxygen and relaxes the central nervous system.
- Progressive Relaxation: This is a conscious technique in which you focus on relaxing one muscle at a time. Start with your toes and work all the way up to your head.
- Sedation: If you are really anxious, you may be able to take a sedative such as Valium before the procedure. Be sure to check with your dentist first, however, in case the procedure makes it unsafe for you to be sedated.
- Hypnosis: Some dentists can perform hypnosis, and you can also do it to yourself. Contrary to popular belief, hypnosis does not actually cause you to lose consciousness, but rather it makes you feel relaxed. Because of this, hypnosis is an effective way of dealing with dental phobia.
- Support Groups: Most communities have support groups available for people with anxiety or phobias. Consider visiting one of these to help you cope with your dental fear.
- Therapy: If your phobia is preventing you from receiving the care you need, you may consider seeing a professional therapist to help you work through your anxiety. Oral health is important and should not be neglected.
Don’t let dental phobia keep you from going to the dentist. Find a dentist who you are comfortable with and ask about the technology they use and what steps they take to reduce anxiety among patients. For more information, check out this article on overcoming dental fear or this one on getting rid of debilitating phobias.
Are you afraid of the dentist? How do you reduce your dental fear?