Dental Tips Blog


Are You Afraid To Go To The Dentist?

If so, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that 5% of people avoid visiting the dentist due to fear.  There are many causes of dental phobia, such as:

A traumatic experience:  Did you have a bad dental visit as a child?  Emotionally intense memories from your past can powerfully affect your decision to go back.

Sitting in the dental chair:  A fear of needles, the drill or pain once you’re in the dental chair is a concern for many.

Humiliation:  Insensitive, critical comments from a former dentist or hygienist can make you cautious and fearful of a repeat experience.

Learned Fear:  Perhaps you’ve never had a difficult dental experience, but a loved one or caregiver did.

Abuse:  A history of physical or emotional abuse, especially from an authority figure, can increase the likelihood of a dental phobia.

The Negative Effects of Dental Phobia

When you’re truly afraid of something, you avoid it at all costs.  Your brain is designed this way to protect you from a perceived potential danger.  The concern with dental phobia is that it prevents you from receiving the preventive dental care that you deserve.

Dental problems may go unchecked and worsen and preventions that can help you maintain your smile’s health aren’t taken advantage of.  You may suffer with painful oral health concerns and your fear prevents you from seeking out the help that you need.

Compassionate Dental Care

There are multiple options available to make your dental visit a comfortable and relaxing one.  A compassionate, caring dentist has only one priority: insuring your best dental health in a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere.  There are many ways that your dentist can help you have a positive dental visit, including sedation therapy.  Ask your dentist what options are available to help you relax and get the care that you need.

Posted on behalf of:
Dr. David Kurtzman D.D.S.
611 Campbell Hill St. NW #101
Marietta, GA 30060
(770) 980-6336


Dealing with Dental Phobia

Many people experience some apprehension about going to the dentist, but when the anxiety is so extreme as to be irrational and pathological, then a dental phobia is present. Dental phobia is characterized by severe anxiety about going to the dentist and receiving dental treatment. People with this phobia avoid dentists at all costs, often putting off routine dental care for years. If they do manage to show up for their dental appointment, they may experience a panic attack or become physically sick in the waiting room.

Dental phobia is a serious problem since it causes individuals to forgo the dental care necessary for maintaining good oral and general physical health. Poor oral health as a direct consequence of dental phobia makes individuals more susceptible to gum disease, tooth decay, and premature tooth loss, as well as potentially fatal conditions like heart disease, pancreatic cancer and lung disease. Individuals with dental phobia also risk the chance of suffering from psycho-social issues related to their poorly maintained teeth.

Here are some methods for dealing with dental phobia.

  • Hypnosis – Professional hypnotherapy induces a trance state in which a person is deeply relaxed and more open to suggestions. It can be used to recondition the mind, helping the patient to eliminate subconscious fears and visualize positive outcomes. Hypnotherapy also taps into the power of the mind to control pain responses during dental procedures.
  • Sleep dentistry – Individuals with dental phobia often fare much better if they are partially or fully asleep during dental treatment. Sleep dentistry uses nitrous oxide (laughing gas), intravenous sedation, general anaesthesia or oral sedation to induce sleep in patients.
  • Relaxation techniques – Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery can help individuals with dental phobia reduce their stress and anxiety levels.
  • Distraction techniques – Today, more and more dental practices are offering distraction amenities such as noise-cancelling music headphones, television, video games, and even immersive virtual reality in the dentist chair. Audiovisual distractions help reduce fear and anxiety by blocking out the noise of dental tools and taking the patient’s mind off the treatment.
  • Therapy – Professional mental health counseling may be necessary for some individuals to overcome dental phobia. Through cognitive therapy, psychotherapy, and support groups, phobic individuals can gain insight into the root of their problem and develop practical skills for coping. Another effective psychotherapeutic technique is systematic desensitization whereby individuals are taught relaxation skills and progressively learn to face their fears.

Overcoming Dental Fears

It’s very normal for some people to have a significant fear of the dentist. While some patients may have had a horrible experience in the past that has kept them away from the dentist for years, others may just completely dislike having anything medical related performed on them.

When dental care providers record blood pressure readings on their patients, it is very common to see a spike in blood pressure that is more elevated than what is normal for the patient. You are not alone. A large percentage of dental patients experience dental phobia, fear, or anxiety.  Your dentist and the staff understand that dental fear is real, and most of them are committed to helping you be as comfortable as possible during your appointment.

The first way to overcome fear of the dentist is to select a provider that you trust and respect. Begin by asking friends, neighbors and family members about their experiences to determine where you might want to visit. There is nothing wrong with seeing more than one dentist and getting a second opinion to determine whether or not the treatment prescribed for you is really your best option. This allows dental patients to establish a rapport with other practitioners and find the office that “fits” best for them.

Many offices also use relaxation techniques such as music, blankets or sedation to help their patients relax as much as possible. If you need to, complete your treatment in smaller appointments, limiting the time you spend at the office. Schedule your visits early in the day so you are well rested. Dentistry has changed significantly over the past 30 years, and most dentists desire to have their patients as comfortable as possible during every visit.


When is Sleep Dentistry a Good Choice?

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Sleep dentistry allows all dental patients to experience fast, efficient, comfortable dental care. Patients that opt to choose sleep dentistry for their procedures may benefit from it due to circumstances such as:

Patients that are extremely anxious about their treatment, or have special needs that make it difficult to stay in a dental treatment chair are able to complete their necessary treatment with the use of sleep dentistry. Because delaying treatment for decay or other dental disease only allows the condition to compound, sleep dentistry enables your dental care provider to complete all necessary treatment in just one comfortable visit.

For invasive procedures that involve oral surgeries, it is necessary to fully sedate the dental patient for their comfort. This is very typical for patients undergoing extraction of wisdom teeth or gum grafting. Even patients that have minor to moderate treatment needs may decide they will benefit from sleep dentistry when they have a phobia of the dentist and prefer to have fewer appointments.

Sleep dentistry is performed in a variety of settings, based on what the patient needs. From private dental offices, to oral surgeon settings or hospitals, sleep sedation is readily available to most dental patients who are in need of it, and tailored to meet their unique needs.

A variety of options are used for sleep dentistry, ranging from oral medications that induce a sleepy state, to IV medicine that causes a deep sleep. Your dentist will work with you to determine the appropriate level of sleep dentistry needed to help your experience be as positive and comfortable as possible.


Sedation Dentistry Has Come A Long Way

Advances in sedation dentistry have made sedation of dental patients much more common than it was in the past.  For over a hundred years, sedation in traditional dental procedures was typically limited to nitrous oxide, also called “laughing gas”.  In recent years, dentists have expanded the use of other sedation techniques to relax patients and help relieve dental phobia and anxiety.

Sedation techniques are also used for patients who are unable to tolerate traditional dental procedures for various reasons such as an uncontrolled gag reflex, inability to get numb with local anesthetics, or special needs patients who cannot sit quietly for more than a few minutes.  In addition, sedation dentistry can be used for patients who need extensive dental work and want to get as much work done as possible in a single visit.

Although many dentists offer sedation dentistry (also called sleep dentistry), there is actually a range of sedation options and only a few dentists offer a full range of sedation dentistry.  In general, the best level of sedation is the mildest level that will allow the patient to comfortably undergo dental care without pain or anxiety.  You and your dentist can choose the appropriate level of sedation to meet your needs.

The mildest form of sedation is nitrous oxide which has been around for decades and many patients are familiar with.  Some dentists offer a deeper level of sedation using oral or intravenous sedatives.  This is called conscious sedation because even if the patient falls asleep, they can be easily awoken and respond to questions.

Unconscious sedation while the patient is under general anesthesia is the deepest level of sedation.  An anesthesiologist or anesthetist will administer the sedative in a hospital operating room or surgical suite while the dentist performs the dental treatment.


Help For Dental Anxiety and Dental Phobia

Very few people actually look forward to a visit to the dentist (except maybe to get those braces off).  In fact, the percentage of American adults who experience some anxiety or fear of the dentist has been estimated as high as 75%.  Most dental patients are able to deal with their anxiety and tolerate dental most procedures with local numbing agents in relative comfort.

Some patients have a stronger reaction to dental care and are uncomfortable throughout the procedure.  Not only does the patient suffer, but the procedure will be more difficult when the patient is noticeably uncomfortable.

Finally there are patients that who are so adverse to dental care that they avoid it at all costs.  These patients are said to have dental phobia.  By avoiding dental care, these patients end up exactly where they don’t want to be – in the dentist’s chair.  Because they have been avoiding dental care for so long, their oral health is poor and they are prone to needing extensive dental care which is what they were avoiding in the first place.

Fortunately, there is relief available for all types of patients.  Most dentists offer mild sedation in the form of nitrous oxide or “laughing gas.”  For patients with mild anxiety, nitrous oxide will put them in a relaxed state similar to being intoxicated.

Patients with a stronger aversion to dentistry may need to seek out a dentist with additional training in conscious sedation techniques.  This usually involves oral sedatives that are stronger than nitrous oxide, but the patient is still conscious.

Finally, patients with severe dental anxiety or dental phobia should consult with a dentist specially trained in sleep sedation dentistry.  These dentists have extensive training in conscious sedation using intravenous sedatives and fully unconscious sedation.

No matter what level of dental anxiety or dental fear you have, there are dentists specially trained in various sedation options who can help you get the dental care you need.


Dental Anxiety

Many people avoid going to the dentist because of dental fear or anxiety.  In some cases, the fear and anxiety are so severe that it becomes dental phobia, a debilitating, uncontrollable reaction to even the thought of going to the dentist.

Studies report that about half the American population does not seek regular dental care.  An estimated 9 to 15% of Americans report that fear or anxiety about dentistry prevents them from getting dental care.  As a result, millions of Americans are putting their health at risk.  Poor dental care not only leads to poor oral health, but it can cause other medical problems as well.

The real tragedy of dental fear and anxiety is that it is entirely unnecessary.  No matter what the source of the anxiety, dental fear issues can be addressed by a caring dentist who specializes in sedation dentistry.  Dentists who practice sedation dentistry have received specialized training and certification in sedation techniques.

A sleep sedation dentist will use a level of sedation appropriate to the level of anxiety that the patient experiences.  For mild anxiety, a calm, soothing office environment combined with nitrous oxide and local anesthesia will usually relax a patient so that the dentistry procedure can be performed in the dental office.

For more severe anxiety, conscious sedation techniques are used to calm the patient.  These usually involve oral sedatives that leave the patient sedated, but conscious.  The patient will be so relaxed that they will sometimes sleep through the procedure and generally will not remember anything.

For the most severe cases of dental anxiety, the dental procedure is performed in a specially equipped operating room while the patient is under general anesthesia.  The patient is unconscious throughout the procedure.


Benefits of Sedation Dentistry

Many people suffer from mild to intense anxiety when even considering a visit to the dentist.  Approximately one third of Americans suffer from some level of dental phobia.  Many people avoid routine dental care which causes their oral health to suffer.

Even worse, some people needlessly live with oral pain because they are anxious about getting the dental care they need.  Not only are these people suffering, but the longer they delay getting dental care, the more their oral health is compromised.

Fortunately, sedation dentistry offers anxiety free dental care for these patients.  Dentists who practice sleep sedation dentistry offer anxiety free, comfortable, painless dental care.

In some circumstances such as severe dental phobia, special needs patients, or patients who cannot tolerate local anesthesia (such as Novocain)  a dentist specializing in sleep sedation dentistry will perform the dental care in a specially hospital operating room with the patient under general anesthesia.

However, for most patients suffering from dental phobia, sedation dentistry can be safely performed in the dentist’s office with the patient fully conscious.   Depending on the patient’s anxiety level, the dentist will use a combination of oral sedatives, nitrous oxide, and Novocain to ensure that the patient receives comfortable, anxiety free, painless dental care.

The patient will be relaxed and may feel drowsy, but the patient is conscious throughout the treatment.  Most patients are so relaxed that later, they do not even remember the entire treatment.  To the patient, it seems as if the procedure only took a few minutes while in reality it may have taken hours.

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