Escaping your fear of dentists
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By George Malkemus  September 28, 2012 12:00 am

Fear of dental treatment is a major problem in our society, often a hidden phobia. Many people are embarrassed to admit their fears and even more afraid to confront them.

Often times, even loved ones are aware of intensity of their fear.

This fear usually comes from a terrible childhood experience that has been amplified in their mind over time.

Plus, the fear continues because the phobic patient does not seek routine dental care and waits until extreme tooth pain forces them to the dentist and necessitates a more involved procedure, such as root canal or extraction. This lifetime of neglect just adds to their fear of the dentist.

I have had many patients who would only call for treatment when they had a terrible toothache.

Even though intellectually they understand this is not sensible, deep emotional fear keeps them from seeking dental treatment.
They feel bad with themselves both for their poor dental condition and their unreasonable fear of dentistry. Luckily, this fear of treatment can be overcome with sedation dentistry. Phobic patients can feel good about themselves again and have great oral health, often for the first time in their lives.

Nitrous oxide, headphones
Nearly 30 percent of Americans have anxiety when it comes to going to the dentist. I often hear, “Nothing personal Doc, but I hate dentists!” from my first meeting with a new patient.

This level of anxiety can usually be treated with a combination of nitrous oxide and music using headphones.

Nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas, is inhaled through a mask and relaxes the patient. The level of gas can be adjusted to allow the patient to be in just the right relaxation state.

Nitrous oxide is safe; patients are actually breathing mostly pure oxygen. Patients can drive themselves, breathing 100 percent oxygen to clear their head before they leave the dental office.

Nitrous oxide makes time go by quickly, so patients are not continually worrying when treatment will be over. Often times, the patient will say, “Are you already done?”

The headphones block the sound of the drill and allow the patient to relax into the music of their choice. This is a great option, even for a patient who chooses not to use nitrous oxide gas.
 
Sedation dentistry
For many people, it is more than being a little afraid. Many will avoid going to the dentist at all costs, even when they are experiencing pain. Many are embarrassed to admit this fear. Sadly, minor issues that are ignored can lead to drastic problems. Fortunately, the embarrassment can end. The phobia can be treated with sedation dentistry.

Sedation dentistry is a technique used to provide a relaxing and anxiety-free experience for people receiving dental treatment. Instead of requiring numerous visits to perform extensive work, the same treatment can be accomplished in as little as one or two visits.

The night before the appointment, the patient takes a pill to give them a restful sleep. An hour before their appointment, they take another pill, and then a companion brings them to the office. At the office, a highly trained dental team makes sure the patient is relaxed and completely comfortable. The patient is closely monitored with a pulsoximeter, which measures pulse, oxygen level and blood pressure. Nitrous oxide is usually given to enhance the sedative state. The patient is continually assessed, and more medication is given as needed to keep the patient in the ideal relaxed state.

For the patient’s safety, a family member or a friend is required to drive them home. I call my patients the evening of their appointment and the next day to see how they are doing and encourage them to drink a lot of fluids.

Patients remember very little about their appointment and usually rave about the great experience.

When I first began doing sedation dentistry, I was amazed at the lack of discomfort, but now I come to expect it. Most non-sedated patients can only tolerate a maximum of two hours of treatment before their jaw becomes sore, but a sedated patient is so relaxed, they don’t have that discomfort. For that reason, sedation dentistry is great treatment for a person who is under time pressure and wants to get all their treatment done in one or two appointments.

I had a San Francisco executive who could not take time off of work for numerous dental visits. So, he took one Friday off work and had sedation dentistry.

We did all his dental treatment over a six-hour period. He was comfortable, happy, done and back to work.

Sedation Dentistry can be used for patients who:
 • Have excessive fears about dental appointments;

 • Have difficulty getting numb;
 
• Hate needles and shots;

• Hate the noises and smells associated with the dental office;

 • Have a strong gag reflex;
 
• Have highly sensitive teeth;

 • Have complex dental problems that will otherwise take several appointments to complete;
 
• Wish to have a comprehensive smile redesign.

If you or someone you know has been putting off dental treatment because of fear, lack of time, or any other discomfort reasons, I recommend sedation dentistry. I’ve been doing it for more than seven years now, and it has helped numerous people who needed dentistry, but before sedation dentistry couldn’t bring themselves to have dental treatment.

It is safe, effective and comfortable. The greatest thing for me is the patients are so thankful afterwards. If you've been putting off years of dental work, Sedation Dentistry can change your life.

Enjoy life and keep smiling.

George Malkemus has had a Family and Cosmetic Dental Practice in Rohnert Park for over 27 years at 2 Padre Parkway, Suite 200. Call 585-8595, or email info@ malkemusdds.com. Visit Dr. Malkemus’ Web site at http://www.malkemusdds.com.

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