I don’t think many days have gone by during my years of practicing dentistry in Hutchinson, that at least one patient hasn’t shared with me that they don’t like coming to the dentist. They will often say “I really like you, but I don’t like what you do”. These dental treatment dislikes are almost as varied in number as patients who express them. The one commonality in them, however, is that they all produce some level of stress. Receiving regular dental care is important for one’s over all health. Avoiding dental treatment because of the stress it can produce, can only do harm to an individual’s health.
So what, if anything can be done to control dental induced stress? I have found that listening to patients and their concerns is the first step in helping put them at ease. We encourage our patients to communicate to us not only their dental concerns, but also their dental fears. We have found that simply talking about what bothers our patients concerning their dental experience can reduce the their anxiety. We suggest to all our patients that they bring in their own music to listen to with ear buds during appointments, or if that is not possible our office has headphones available to play music of their choice. This music can have a calming effect on the patient.
If what initiates the stress is specific, sometimes steps can be taken to change the way the dental treatment is delivered. That can attenuate or in some cases eliminate the cause of that patient’s stress. If that doesn’t work, nitrous oxide (laughing gas) can be utilized to reduce patient anxiety. It is easy to administer and as no lasting hangover effect. If nitrous oxide is still not enough to calm the patient, various prescription drugs can be taken before an appointment to ensure a comfortable patient dental experience. Lastly, if all else fails, sedation dentistry is available for those patient’s who still need stress free dental treatment.
Dental induced stress is real, but with open communication, patience, and understanding by a caring dental professional, it can be managed. Avoiding necessary dental treatment because of it can be a general health disaster.