“I hate going to the dentist.” “I hate the dentist.” “I’m terrified of the dentist.”

Scared Cartoon

ALL the above are phrases I hear every day. I never understood why so many members of our population hated going to the dentist when I was younger. The dentist joked around with me, I found him and his team of assistants good company, and I got a sweet sticker, maybe a balloon, and had awesome colors integrated into my retainer and the rubber bands on my braces.

As I started assisting for my own family dentist, I saw the phobia manifesting in patients. While in dental school I saw it all the time, and in residency and one of the offices I worked in immediately following, I saw that the struggle is real for some. I tried different approaches to see what worked. I found that asking patients to tell me about their former experience so that I didn’t repeat it was a great start. If a patient wants to divulge every detail, great, but some really do not want to and that is okay too; then I know just to keep them overly informed and calm at any and every appointment. I think it helps that I am 5 feet tall and petite, so I am not so scary, but I find it really comes down to pain and the fear of pain. It is human nature to avoid pain and situations that make one uncomfortable. It seems that most of the horror stories I hear have to do with inadequate anesthesia or the inability to have the patient numbed sufficiently to complete the dental work and treatment. Now, this is something we can avoid!

Now, this is something we can avoid!

If you cannot adequately numb an area because of infection, medicate and try again later; if you cannot adequately numb an area because of accessory innervation, try another technique; if you cannot adequately numb an area or assess the area for profound anesthesia, talk to the patient and work together to achieve the result you need! We need to remember that we are asking a small amount of fluid to diffuse through tissues of the head and neck and block the sodium channels of your nerve fibers in the given region that are responsible for the detection of discomfort. It takes time! Studies have shown it can take approximately 2 minutes, but up to 15 minutes in some people. Of course, it then takes about 2 to 3 hours to wear off, but you can’t rush Mother Nature!

So sit back, have patience, have confidence, talk to your dentist, and relax. You’ve got this!