Afraid Of Going To The Dentist? Fear Has Big Price Tag.

Posted on Aug 15, 2017 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

In my periodontal specialty, I see a large number of patients who have developed gum disease or have lost teeth because they were too afraid to go to a dentist. Some people have even avoided dental care for decades. Yet, like a leaky roof on a house, ignoring the problem only leads to bigger, more complicated issues to deal with eventually that can’t be avoided.

Dental fear is a major problem in the U.S. and is a contributing factor to developing periodontal disease. Because gum disease begins without obvious warning signs, it is often allowed to develop further. This can create more complex problems and the need for treatment that is more involved and costly than if caught early on.

Gum disease, at some level, affects over 47% of American adults. However, most Americans are unfamiliar with the typical warning signs. These include tender gums that bleed easily when brushing, bad breath and swollen gums. As the disease progresses, gums become redder from inflammation and may recede from teeth, exposing tooth roots segments that are sensitive to hot and cold.

While it is estimated that over 70% of adults have some level of dental fear, from anxiety to dental phobia (an uncontrollable reaction that causes some adults to shake, sweat or even cry when faced with a dental visit), there is no typical persona when it comes to who has dental fear and who does not. There is no common age, gender or educational level, nor is there a typical income level.

What is ‘normal,’ so to speak, is the fact that most dental fear exists because of a traumatic experience in a dental chair in the past. This may have been as a child when a dentist was too rough or forceful. It may have been as an adult when the patient was not yet numb, yet the dentist continued to work on a tooth.

Dental fear, once embedded in the brain, often triggers perceived pain in the future. What exacerbates it is how it leaves a patient feeling vulnerable. When reclined in a treatment chair and unable to see what is taking place in a sensitive area such as the mouth, there is a sense of not being in control. For those who have experienced pain thrust upon them in the past that continued beyond their pleas, this sensation of helplessness is not something that is easily overcome.

In our office, we frequently see patients because they are beyond what can be treated by a general dentist. A Periodontist specializes in all levels of gum disease. This means that we have the best potential to help you save your natural teeth, even when at advanced levels.

While red, inflamed gums may not sound highly serious, they are. Research has shown that the oral bacteria of periodontal disease can enter the bloodstream and create inflammatory reactions. This is known as systemic inflammation. This inflammation has been linked to serious health problems including pre-term babies, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, some cancers, impotency and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Signs of gum disease

Apparently, healthy gums are important to having good, overall health. Your periodontal wellness is important and dental fear can be addressed so you can achieve a healthy, confident smile without feeling white-knuckled in the dental chair! We offer oral sedation, which is in pill form, for relaxation. We also offer I.V. sedation that creates a “twilight sleep” state.

Both sedation options are safe. Trained staff monitor sedated patients throughout treatment using special safety equipment. Both tend to erase most, if not all, memory of treatment afterward and recovery for both is fairly quick. Within hours for oral sedation and without 24 hours for I.V. sedation.

However, as a dental specialist AND a caring, compassionate caregiver, I have seen patients relax the most when they realize our goal is to make sure they are always comfortable. We never want a patient to feel helpless or vulnerable in our dental chair. Once a new patient explains their concerns about comfort and we discuss options to keep them relaxed and comfortable, we will determine – together – the best sedation and pace of treatment that fits.

Consider beginning with a consultation appointment so we can get to know one another. We can arrange to meet in our private consultation room that is removed from the clinical side of the practice. Here, we’ll sit in comfy arm chairs and have a conversation about your specific needs.

Call 828-274-9440 and let’s get your smile in great shape! After all, having a smile that looks as good as it feels is a reason, in itself, to smile!

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