When “Your Friend” is Too Scared to Go to the Dentist
“I’m just asking for a friend, but… how can you help someone too scared to see the dentist?”
Whether it’s your friend or secretly you, it doesn’t matter - dental fear is a serious issue, and it absolutely should NEVER be looked at from a judgmental mindset. It’s often hard for those who aren’t scared of dentistry whatsoever to understand what’s truly going on in the mind of someone with a dental phobia. When you do understand dental fear, it can help you prevent your kids or grandkids from developing it. And if its something that’s already taken hold in your or a loved one’s life, then stay tuned - we’re going to talk about ways to deal with it.
Part 1) Understanding Dental Fear
Like many fears, a phobia of the dentist or the dental context is very commonly associated with a traumatic experience. In my 5 years of being a dentist, most stories I hear from patients involve a childhood trauma at the dentist that “ruined them for life”. One of my assistants, in fact, has a severe dental phobia. She can watch me give injections all day long, no problem. She sees patients receive painless injections all the time, and yet, she will break down in tears the moment its her turn to sit in the chair.
The thing you need to understand is that a dental phobia is not something you can address logically. Trying to “talk sense” into your child who’s already had a horrible experience at the dentist simply doesn’t work. The fear that grips them is a powerful emotional response that is extremely difficult to overcome. Thus, it’s best if we can avoid the source of the trauma in the first place. Prevention is key.
Nowadays, advances in topical anesthetics, magnification, illumination and conscious sedation make it very easy to give children a very positive first experience with dental therapy (e.g. fillings, or getting a tooth pulled). If a child around the age of 5 comes into our practice and shows any nervous body language during the check-up, that’s our cue to educate the parents, guardians or grandparents about Nitrous Oxide sedation, should any fillings or tooth extractions be required.
Nitrous Oxide sedation is an extremely safe form of sedation that’s also known as “Laughing Gas”, and it’s administered via a nasal mask. In my experience, Nitrous Oxide in combination with funny cartoons playing on the ceiling above will “chill out” 95% of slightly anxious children; in fact, it does such a good job that they won’t notice the needle, don’t mind the rubber dam, and could care less about the dental drill. And the best thing? You can reverse the effects of Nitrous Oxide in just minutes - your little one will be alert and back to themselves by the time they get in the car to go home.
After a single or multiple positive experiences, your child will be super confident in his or her ability to go to the dentist. And with a prize at the end, they may even be excited to come!
Part 2) Dealing With Pre-Existing Dental Phobias
This part will be released on the blog on May 21st, 2019... We'll see you next week!
Michael the Dentist