According to the American Dental Association, 40 million Americans avoid visiting the dentist each year due to dental anxiety. Not only does avoiding the dentist expose people to a greater risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease, but it also prevents them from receiving routine oral cancer screenings that can spot the disease at an early, easily treatable stage.
Even if you’re one of the millions of Americans who view a visit to the dentist as you would a swim in a shark tank wearing a life vest made out of a prime rib, you can take comfort knowing that modern dentistry has come a long way with the management of pain. Through the use of a variety of advanced medical techniques and medications, visiting the dentist has become a largely pain-free experience. Here are some of the more common techniques currently used by dentists today.
Usually applied with a swab to an area of the mouth about to undergo a routine procedure, topical anesthetics help to numb the gums so that a patient doesn’t feel discomfort when given a local anesthetic shot, such as Lidocaine. The benefits of these types of anesthetics are that they only affect one area of the body, and wear off in about an hour.
Ask most patients why they fear the dentist and you’ll probably hear more than a few comments about not likely the dental drill. Fortunately for those opposed to drills, the majority of dentists now use laser drills, which can remove plaque and decay with much less discomfort. Laser drills can also prepare a tooth for the placement of a filling, which means you never need to hear the sound of a dental drill whirling up again.
Electronically Delivered Anesthesia
For patients who fear needles even more than they fear the drill, your dentist can still easy any discomfort you may experience during a procedure using TENS, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. An injection-free way of eliminating discomfort, TENS uses adhesive pads that send electrical impulses to numb areas of the face. If the idea of electrical pads attached to your face doesn’t easy any concerns, take comfort in knowing that the patient controls the level of electrical stimulation they feel through the use of a hand-held device.
Commonly referred to as laughing gas, nitrous oxide is administered through inhalation and ranks as one of the most common patient sedation techniques used by dentists. By breathing in the gas, patients begin to feel relaxed in preparation for their dental procedure. Since the effects of the gas wear off quickly, nitrous oxide sedation allows patients to recover immediately following a procedure so they can even drive home.
By far the most extreme, but also most effective, way of sedating a patient, general anesthesia places a patient to sleep for the entire duration of the dental procedure. While this type of sedation guarantees patients will not feel anything during the procedure, it also carries with it more risk of complications. Due to these potential complications, dentists often only use general anesthesia on patients with severe dental phobias who need to undergo extensive dental work.