Dental anxiety and the more severe dental phobia impact many San Antonio people, including some William J. Stewart Jr. DDS patients. Today’s post answers some questions asked about this vital topic.
What are the long-term consequences of dental anxiety and dental phobia?
The most harmful consequence is when a dental phobic patient delays dental care until a pain becomes excruciating. At this point, the trouble is usually extremely advanced and requires extensive treatment.
Furthermore, there are usually many other dental issues in varying stages of progression. Many oral conditions eventually cause malfunction in other vital systems risking general health and well-being.
There is also another anxiety at play, albeit a very ironic one. In addition to the emotional distress about dental treatment, the patient who avoids dental care starts panicking about the sorry condition of their teeth.
If I have dental phobia or anxiety, what should I do to protect my oral health?
Schedule an appointment with me, Dr. William Stewart of William J. Stewart Jr. DDS in San Antonio. There are several specific fears associated with dental anxiety and dental phobia. Fear of pain, fear of the unknown, fear of loss of control, and extreme embarrassment because of poor dental health are the most common concerns. During your consultation, we will address each of your individual fears and discuss them.
I have helped many patients manage their anxiety during dental exams and treatment. First off, we take things slowly. I explain exactly what is going to happen before each procedure. If the patient is embarrassed about their lack of daily oral hygiene or dental cleanings in the past, I assure the patient that I have treated many people who have neglected their teeth and nothing going on in their mouth will shock me. I never, ever give stern lectures on proper oral care – though I do give friendly instruction if requested.
If local anesthetic is necessary, I employ my finely-honed methods which cause zero to minimal discomfort. We agree upon a nonverbal signal, such as raising a hand, to cue me to remove my instrument from the patient’s mouth. Then he/she can take a break, breathe deeply, regain composure, ask questions, and learn the status of the procedure.
These practices go a long way to calm anxious dental patients. At the very least, they help the patient get through the treatment that is necessary immediately. With each subsequent visit, the patient is comforted by increased familiarity, greater confidence, and a strengthened relationship with me and my patient-centered and detail oriented team.
What if I need more help to get through treatment?
In the San Antonio dental community, the terms “sleep dentistry” and “oral conscious sedation” are both used, however, they are not exactly the same thing. There are three main types of sedation used in dentistry.
Level 1: Nitrous Oxide
Nitrous oxide, or, informally, “laughing gas” is safe and effective. Nitrous oxide has been used in San Antonio cosmetic dental offices for decades because in many ways it is the ideal mild sedative. It goes to work at the first inhalation, relaxes the patient during the treatment without rendering them completely unconscious, and wears off quickly after the mask is removed. And no needles are required – an essential feature for the needle-phobic.
Level 2: Oral Conscious Sedation
Oral sedatives don’t start working as quickly as nitrous oxide, but they help most patients achieve a deeper level of relaxation. These medications, however, do not usually cause complete unconsciousness. Thus, oral sedatives and nitrous oxide are used in “conscious” sedation. Two common sedatives used by San Antonio dentists to assuage patient’s fears are diazepam and triazolam.
Level 3: IV Sedation
IV sedation produces actual “sleep dentistry.” Most patients are completely oblivious to the dental procedures they are receiving. IV sedation is beneficial for root canals, wisdom teeth extractions, multi-procedure smile makeovers, and oral surgery.