A few weeks ago, I was at a family gathering and one of the people there came up to me and out of the blue said, "Last time I went to the dentist, I got scared. I'm not going anymore". This person is a fully grown adult who is a busy, active, and productive member of society. Why would a person say that and what can be done about it?
adults, a lot of dental anxiety can come from unpleasant memories of our younger days at the dentist. These memories can be very difficult not to project onto your mindset today. Loss of control can be a major factor in the anxiety. It can be very helpful to your peace of mind to talk about your specific fears to your dentist. Maybe the dentist didn't stop when you told him to. Maybe something hurt. Maybe the cost was more than you were told it would be. There are so many possible things that can cause you anxiety in the dental chair. All of these items and just about anything that makes you nervous can be helped by talking with your dentist.
I know I have said before in this column that if you think nothing has changed in dentistry in twenty years then you are going to the wrong dentist. If your dentist will not listen to your concerns you need to look down the street for another one. Usually through using modified technique, talking about what to expect, or using a sedative or nitrous oxide gas, your anxiety can be significantly reduced or eliminated. One thing that is really a poor choice is to just "tough it out". This approach is nearly certain to make anesthesia difficult or impossible, lengthen treatment time, and virtually assure reduced quality and longevity of the work.
Just like if last time maintenance was done on your car and the outcome was not what you had hoped, it is not a viable option to simply stop doing maintenance. You have to find another way, either by going somewhere else where your needs are better met, or by making other arrangements where they already know you.
What I am saying here is stick up for yourself. If something doesn't sound right or isn't going right, find out what the reason is. You deserve to know what is being done, when it can be done, and why it is being done. Make sure when you are to have something done at the dentist, you ask some questions beforehand. The answers you get will tell you a lot about the approach your dentist has toward dentistry and toward you.
- This article was written by Dr. Mike Christensen and published in the Daily Miner and News, and Enterprise. Local Kenora News Publicatons (1998-2006)