Don’t Allow Dental Fear or Anxiety To Ruin Your Smile
Posted on Aug 23, 2023 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
It’s a proven fact that your oral health – the wellness of your teeth and gum tissues – is an influencing contributor to your overall health. For decades, researchers have studied the concerning risks, and alarming connections, between oral health and a number of serious diseases in the body.
The leading culprit in this scenario are the bacteria of advanced gum disease, known as periodontitis. Gum disease breeds bacteria that are inflammatory in makeup. Once they enter the bloodstream (through tears in disease oral tissues), studies have found these potent bacteria can trigger the onset of serious diseases, such as:
• Heart disease
• Alzheimer’s disease & Dementia
• Some cancers (including lung and pancreatic)
• Pre-term babies
• High blood pressure
• Erectile Dysfunction (ED)
As research continues, more and more findings are bringing to light just how connected the mouth is to the efficient operation of the immune system. During the Covid pandemic, it was well publicized that those most vulnerable to the virus were those who were immune compromised.
One study, conducted between February and July 2020, analyzed two groups of 568 total patients with severe COVID-19 complications (death, ICU admissions or assisted ventilation). Periodontal conditions in the two groups were analyzed. Of the patients studied, those with periodontitis were three times more likely to experience COVID‐19 complications including death, ICU admission, and the need for assisted ventilation.
For years, the cost of dentistry has been credited for preventing millions of American adults from having regular dental care. This was recently studied in a nationally representative survey of 5,682 adults. In this, researchers looked at knowledge, attitudes, experiences, and behaviors related to oral health.
Results from the survey show that lack of insurance is a leading reason for avoiding dental care or delaying recommended care (often until something becomes so painful that the individual is forced into a dentist’s chair seeking relief).
The study showed that 16% of adults without dental insurance admitted that they had not seen a dentist in more than five years compared to just 5% of adults with dental insurance. Forty percent of adults without dental insurance reported cost was the reason they hadn’t visited the dentist in the past two years, compared to 14% of adults with dental insurance.
Yet, excruciating pain from a dental problem can be the impetus for setting aside the cost. The same is true for people who have fear or anxiety associated with dental care.
About 36% of people in the U.S. have a fear of dental treatment, with 12% having an intense fear, known as dentophobia. Dental phobics are people who avoid going to the dentist at all. Dental fear is more common in females than males, with an estimated 3% of men and almost 5% of women having dentophobia.
Reasons for these fears include:
– Fear the anesthetic will not work or be sufficient to fully numb the pain
– Blood makes some people feel afraid or panicky about bleeding during a dental procedure.
– People may fear choking or gagging and not being able to breathe or swallow.
– For individuals who have had a poor experience with a dentist in the past, they may associate negative feelings with their dentist.
– Feeling pain from the procedure or recovery
– Some people are highly fearful of needles.
– The noise from drills and dental instruments used by a dentist or dental hygienist can create high levels of anxiety for some people.
– The same is true when it comes to certain smells that arise during dental treatment.
New Study Links Periodontitis and COVID‐19 Complications
At our Asheville NC periodontal dental office, we take patient comfort very seriously, and that goes for all patients at every appointment. We find that many patients have developed severe gum disease or had tooth loss because they were afraid of going to a dentist. This prevents people from having regular dental care, which allows small problems to become worse ones.
Many with dental fear or dentophobia avoid going to the dentist for years. And, these feelings may be more common than you know. When dental anxiety, dental fear and dentophobia are combined, it affects an estimated 70% of American adults. This unfortunate statistic is a likely reason for the high percentage of adults who suffer with some level of periodontal (gum) disease – over 47%.
As a Periodontist, my staff and I work diligently to pamper patients from the moment they enter. For certain procedures as well as for patients who prefer the addition of sedatives, we offer oral sedation as well as I.V. sedation (twilight sleep).
Oral sedation is a pill that helps patients relax. It also has an amnesiac effect, leaving most with little or no memory of treatment afterward.
I.V. sedation places the patient in a deeper sleep state, also erasing memory of the procedure. It is administered by a doctor of anesthesiology, overseen by Dr. Brad Stone, a Medical Doctor (MD) and a board certified Anesthesiologist & Pediatric Anesthesiologist.
With both sedation options, patients are closely monitored with advanced safety equipment throughout treatment.
If fear has caused you or someone you know to avoid dental visits, please arrange a consultation with us. In our Western NC periodontal dental office, you’ll find a warm, respectful atmosphere where your concerns are understood. During this time, we can discuss comfort options that may be best for your individual needs along with estimated costs.
What’s Keeping You From The Dentist’s Office?
Posted on Oct 19, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
As an Periodontist in Asheville NC, I’ve treated many patients who, to no surprise, developed periodontal (gum) disease because of NOT going to a dentist on a regular basis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), nearly 65 percent of adults aged 18 and over had at least one dental visit in the past year (based on 2019).
Unfortunately, that leaves 35 percent of adults who did not.
The reason it is recommended to see a dentist for exams and cleanings TWICE A YEAR is because tartar, which is hardened plaque, can cause cavities and gum disease. One plaque hardens into tartar, it can no longer be brushed or flossed away. It must be removed by a dentist or hygienist using special tools.
Tartar is actually a mass of oral bacteria, which has attached itself to the base of (or in-between) teeth. Tartar (also referred to as calculus), is a colony of bacteria that thrive on oral tissues. Bacteria are living organisms and reproduce rapidly. And, the more there are, the more rapidly they amass.
So, what are the common excuses for avoiding regular dental care? See if you’ve been guilty of one or more:
COST – Some individuals feel dental cleanings and exams are expensive. Actually, there is a great deal of time and training that goes into your individualized care. In addition to the measures of sterilization and instruments, hygienists and dentists are highly-trained, educated, and must stay board certified. As for the investment, these visits are what help you avoid the need for a filling, gum disease, potential damage to teeth due to bite misalignment, and even catch oral cancer at early stages. If dental insurance is not possible, ask if payment plans are available. Many dental offices offer these, most of which are interest-free with no down payment required.
DENTAL FEAR – If fear or anxiety keeps you away from a dental chair, you are not alone. It is estimated that over 70 percent of American adults have some level of this. Sometimes the fear exists because of a traumatic experience in the past or feeling helpless in the chair. Some people react to certain smells and sounds. A few have no idea what prompted their fear, but know it is beyond their control. For these, we advise seeking dental care in a modernized office. Today’s advanced technology has greatly enhanced the level of comfort during care as well as reduced treatment time. Too, offices such as our Asheville periodontal dental office offer oral sedation as well as IV sedation (twilight sleep). These are administered by highly-skilled professionals who oversee the patient using advanced safety monitoring equipment. Ask for a consultation and tour before choosing the office that is reassuring to your unique needs.
DREAD OF BEING LECTURED – If it’s been years since you’ve seen a dentist, you may be expecting a lecture from the dentist or hygienist (or both!). My staff and I believe that is a sure way to deter someone from cultivating a positive attitude towards their dental relationship. We all want to feel respected and having a caregiver talk “down” to you is unfair, especially because no one knows the story behind your delay or avoidance. If you feel that’s going to be a problem, say so. Be upfront with “a lecture is not going to help me.” If you feel it’s a recurring problem, ask to have your records transferred to an office where you are treated more appropriately.
FEAR OF EMBARRASSMENT – Some adults feel awkward having their denture or partial removed at the dentist’s office. Some people fear they’ll gag during care, which can trigger coughing and even throwing up. Some feel their mouths are so “bombed out” that it’s embarrassing to have a dentist see how much damage has occurred. To reassure you, there is nothing we haven’t seen or experienced. Dentists have quite a lot thrown at us during dental school. As a specialist in periodontics, my additional training covered even more in-depth and complex damage or disease. DO NOT worry about your caregivers. They WANT you to rely on them to help you. Almost any dentist or specialist will tell you that our greatest joy comes from taking a patient from a “hopeless” mouth to a patient who has a healthy, confident smile!
TIME IN TREATMENT – Today’s advanced technology has greatly condensed the time needed to accurately diagnose and treatment plan almost any dental problem. Many treatments can be completed in just one or two visits. For those who have more extensive needs, dentists can sometimes combine several appointments into one long one. This is made much easier for the patient with the addition of oral sedation. Oral sedation creates a totally relaxed state so the patient can “doze” in and out of treatment. It has a quick recovery and sedated patients are carefully monitored for safety and comfort throughout treatment.
Regardless of WHY you’ve avoided the dentist, your smile is worth it! Having an appealing smile you feel joyful in sharing adds to your mood, enhances appearance and makes a positive impression to others.
If you’ve avoided dental care for years (or even decades), you may have signs or symptoms of periodontal disease. These include tender gums that may bleed when brushing, gums that recede from the base of some teeth, gums that turn red in color, and frequent bad breath. Gums are the foundation for teeth, so without healthy gums, your teeth will not be healthy, either.
Too, gum disease will only worsen without treatment. If you are a reader of my articles, you may have read the findings of research that correlates the bacteria of gum disease with serious health conditions. These include stroke, heart disease, preterm babies, some cancers, arthritis, diabetes, and erectile dysfunction.
Let us help you feel the positive aspects of achieving a healthy smile. Begin with a consultation by calling 828-274-9440.
Gag Reflex? Some Tips To Help.
Posted on Sep 04, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
For people who have a sensitive gag reflex, going to the dentist can be a trying experience. After all, the suction tube that removes water spray and saliva accumulating in the back of the mouth can trigger it. Once activated, gagging becomes all the more likely.
A gag reflex is a protective reaction that helps prevent foreign bodies from entering the trachea. While gagging is an involuntary and natural response, over thirty percent of otherwise healthy adults have an abnormal gag reflex.
For those who have a severe gag reflex, the mere thoughts of a suction tube or having a dental impression taken can create both dread and fear of embarrassment. After all, gagging triggers a spasm, which causes some people to have dry heaves or even regurgitate. Gagging may also be caused by acid reflux. For some, it can be triggered by certain smells and even anxiety.
Having a severe gag reflex is nothing to be ashamed of; it’s a common occurrence. If you feel this is a concern, feel free to mention this prior to any procedure (including dental cleanings). If you have avoided dental care because of gagging worries, we can discuss ways to help minimize the response and make procedures more comfortable.
The tips offered below may also help you reduce the severity of your gagging reflex as well.
• Breathe through your nose – Breathing through the nose can alter your focus from the potential to gag. Some patients find it beneficial to count their breaths to distract their minds. Breathing through the nose can also help your ability to relax. Concentrate on taking deep breaths in and out as you relax the jaw muscles.
• Go to your ‘happy place’ – When the fear of gagging is replaced by pleasant thoughts, patients are less likely to gag or the severity of the reflex is reduced. Think about things and people who make you happy. Your grandchildren? Your best friend? Relive a terrific vacation in your mind. Relaxing on a beach? Hiking a beautiful mountain? Think about foods that bring back memories. Peach cobbler with ice cream melting on top?
• Occupy your mind with tasks – A great distraction is to think of to-do’s in our head. For example, make a grocery list or the birthdays you need to remember for the next few months. The goal is to take your focus away from what’s going on in your mouth.
• Ask about sedation options – Having a severe gagging reflex may be helped greatly with an added sedative. In our Asheville periodontal office, we offer oral and IV sedation. Oral sedation is in pill form and has a quick recovery. I.V. sedation (referred to often as twilight sleep), provides a deeper level of sedation.
• Know you can take a break – Our patients are not prisoners in a chair, at any point – We realize some procedures can be long and are happy to provide a break to sit up, or move your mouth around, or get up and walk around. An opportunity to move your head and neck muscles around may revive you and provide just the relaxation you need.
• Don’t think of drooling as awkward – Saliva is a natural flow of moisture in the mouth. Drool is simply saliva that gets past the lips. As dental professionals, drool is not something that bothers us If drooling helps to relax your gag reflex, then go for it. If you do, we’ll help keep you comfy with suction and dabbing with tissues as needed.
Remember, gagging is rather common occurrence in a dental office. If gagging has caused you to avoid or delay having regular dental care or lengthy procedures, consider scheduling a consultation appointment in our beautiful Asheville periodontal dental office.
Call 828-274-9440 to schedule.