Dentophobia: The fear of dentistry visiting the dentist or receiving dental care.
Studies find that the fear of visiting the dentist isn’t a rare occurrence. In fact, over 60 percent of people who responded to one US survey said they suffer from some level of dental fear. 4 percent of people in the survey said they are so afraid they have never even been to the dentist.
While it might be a temporary relief to simply avoid the dentist, the truth is that maintaining oral health is vital to your overall well being.
Why You Should Keep Your Smile Healthy
Regular oral health maintenance is an important way of monitoring signs of other health conditions. Conditions like HIV, Diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and even Alzheimer’s can cause oral conditions like dry mouth and thrush.
Poor oral health can also lead to other health issues. Untreated cavities can lead to infections that can continue to spread in your body. Infections that make it to the blood can cause abscesses, which can create deadly bacterial infections.
With the advancements of modern dental medicine, there is no reason to die over a cavity.
Keeping up with your tooth health is also important from a social aspect. Nearly 100% of Americans believe a good smile is a highly valuable asset. A great smile can help you romantically, improve your chances of getting a job, boost your confidence, and so much more.
Mentally preparing to take care of your teeth is an important step in better oral health care. Empowering yourself with knowledge can help ease your mind about going to the dentist. Here are 8 of the most typical dental procedures.
1. Tooth Cleanings/ Whitening
Standard cleanings are one of the most popular reasons to visit a dentist.
A basic tooth cleaning involved removing built-up tartar from the teeth and using an ultrasonic vibrating device or metal scaler. Once the tartar is removed, the dentist will use floss or a similar tool to clean between the teeth. The teeth will also be polished with a mildly abrasive paste that can remove surface-level grime and stains.
Whitening is another way of improving the appearance of teeth, but it isn’t the same as cleaning. During a professional whitening session, your teeth are polished with a pumice paste that breaks down plaque on the teeth.
Once cleaned, gauze and barrier material is placed around your teeth to protect your gums and lips from the bleaching agent. With your sensitive mouth skin protected, a peroxide bleaching solution is added to the front of the teeth and left for up to 60 minutes.
Sometimes a curing light is applied to the teeth during the process, which allows the bleach to activate.
Both cleanings and whitenings can leave you with beautiful teeth. Cleanings should be done regularly while whitening should be used sparingly.
2. Fillings and Dental Repairs
When you have your teeth examined a dentist may find cavities (areas of tooth decay) or small areas of damage to the teeth. These areas need to be repaired or they can spread, causing pain and infection. This is where fillings come into play.
Fillings are one of the most typical dental procedures and are usually completed quickly and painlessly.
The cavities or damaged areas are filled with either a tooth-colored composite material made from glass ionomer or metal fillings that may be silver or gold.
3. Dentures, Bridges, and Implants
Sometimes we can’t always hold onto our original teeth. We might lose teeth due to age, illness, accidents, or genetic defects, but that doesn’t mean we have to live out the rest of our lives without a smile.
Replacing those teeth with dentures, bridges, or implants can give you back the use of your teeth and help you feel more confident in your appearance.
Dentures and bridges are both removable options for tooth replacement that require fittings and little more. Implants, on the other hand, include replacement roots and are permanently implanted into the gums.
The implants are placed while under anesthesia to prevent unnecessary pain or discomfort.
4. Crowns/ Caps
When one or more of your teeth suffers from extensive decay, breakage, staining, or other issues, a dentist may opt to use a crown or cap for their repair.
Don’t be confused by the name variance, a crown and cap are the same things. They are tooth-colored coverings that can completely cover a damaged tooth. The original tooth will be filed down to an anchoring nub, over which the cap/crown can be placed.
before filing the tooth, your dentist will completely numb the area and the root of the tooth to prevent any pain from the procedure. Once completed, the cap is semi-permanent but might fall off if damaged.
If a crown/cap falls off, the dentist can easily replace it. Crown replacements are just one of many typical dental procedures, so don’t be embarrassed if your cap is damaged.
When it comes to those with a fear of dentistry, they may be able to handle a visit for many typical dental procedures. However, extractions are usually where they draw the line. It is important to remember that dentists do not suggest the removal of teeth without good reason.
If your dental professional believes you need an extraction, the damage to your tooth and potential for future health concerns is great.
The removal of a tooth is performed only after the patient is given an injected anesthetic to numb the tooth and surround tissue. A patient shouldn’t feel anything more than pressure during extraction. If the patient is feeling anxious, they may be administered Nitrous Oxide, or laughing gas, to help them relax.
6. Oral Surgery
There are a few reasons you may receive dental surgery, but the most common are:
- Root canal
- Wisdom tooth extraction
- Gum surgery
When a tooth becomes infected and is left untreated, the infection can spread deep within the tooth and even create abscesses. When this happens, a root canal may become necessary.
A root canal is a type of oral surgery where the inside of a tooth (the root) is accessed and cleaned. The goal of a root canal is to save the tissue within the tooth and clear out the infection.
Though root canals can be scary, they typically result in an intense relief of pain for patients, as the pain of an infected tooth is said to be one of the most intense pains a human can endure.
Wisdom Tooth Removal
Many years ago our primitive ancestors scavenged for their food and ate many different plants, raw meats, and other tough materials. So they had themselves a nice set of shiny, strong jaw teeth to help grind their food into a consumable paste. Those plant grinders are called wisdom teeth.
Fortunately, we have evolved into creatures with the ability to pre-process difficult to eat foods, so we don’t really need those super strong grinders anymore. However, some of our bodies didn’t get the memo and we still have wisdom teeth hiding in the back of our much smaller jawbones.
When these wisdom teeth decide to erupt from their gummy slumber, they can create a lot of pain and discomfort. They push other jaw teeth forward which can cause crowding and cracks in the teeth. That is why it is important to have them removed.
The extraction is usually completed under local anesthesia, which means you are awake for the procedure. However, a childrens dentist is likely to use heavier methods of sedation, as young children tend to experience more anxiety about removal procedures.
Gum surgery is actually not one of the typical dental procedures. Instead, there is a special doctor that deals with gum disease (periodontal disease), surgery, and grafting. This type of doctor is known as a periodontist.
A periodontist can help repair damage from periodontal disease and repair recessions in the gum-line along with gaps in the gums.
Depending on why you are receiving braces, they can be considered both a medical and cosmetic device.
Some patients receive braces to fix cosmetic issues like tooth gaps and crooked teeth. Others use braces to fix a misalignment in the jaw such as overbites, underbites, and overjets. These scenarios are considered medically necessary as the misalignment of the jaw can cause issues with eating and breathing.
Unfortunately, even medically necessary braces are rarely covered by insurance. However, many orthodontists offer payment plans to help offset the cost. Alternatively, you can research orthodontist schools in your area and inquire about student performed services, which are often heavily discounted.
Don’t worry, the orthodontists in training are supervised and the only real risk is that the process may take considerably longer than if you were working with a seasoned professional.
8. Oral Cancer Exams
Every time you visit the dentist, they should perform an oral cancer evaluation. This involves feeling the gums, head, neck, and face for lumps. As well as observing for tissue changes within the mouth. Tissue changes might include:
- A sore in the mouth that doesn’t heal
- A change in color or texture
- Unexplained swelling
Though a dentist may notice the signs of oral cancer, they can only confirm the diagnosis through a biopsy. Two types of biopsy – incisional and exfoliative – may be performed.
An incisional biopsy involves cutting a small piece of oral tissue from the area where cancer signs are present. The tissue sample is then sent to a laboratory for further testing.
An exfoliative biopsy, or exfoliative cytology, involves gently scraping the suspicious area and examining the scraped cells under a microscope.
Oral cancer can be catastrophic if not caught early, which is why it is so important that cancer examinations are included among typical dental procedures.
How Dentists Handle Dentophobia
When it comes to helping fearful and anxious patients receive dental care, there are only two words you need to know – sedation dentistry.
This form of dental care focuses on creating a relaxing environment for those with extreme anxiety over dental procedures. This is done through the use of sedation at varying degrees.
Some patients need sedation for even the most typical dental procedures, which is why sedation dentists know how to gauge the level of sedation required to work on a patient.
Thanks to this inclusive type of dentistry, there is a way for all patients to get the oral care they need and deserve.
The Cost of Dentistry
Even when your health insurance company claims to have the best coverage, often dental care is not included. This might lead you to believe that dental procedures cost less out-of-pocket than regular doctors. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Even the most typical dental procedures can cost thousands of dollars and may leave patients with partially completed dental work, due to an inability to afford a second visit. That is why a private dental insurance plan is a smart investment.
Dental coverage can vary by company, but most plans fully cover the cost of typical dental procedures like cleanings, screenings, and fillings. Even oral surgery can be covered up to 80 percent, and cosmetic services might be heavily discounted as well.
Which insurance company you choose will depend on your needs and finances, so thoroughly research your options before purchasing.
Preparing For Your Dental Visit
Whether you are one of the thousands of people with a fear of dentists or simply someone who doesn’t want to spend an arm and a leg to fix their teeth, it is important to prepare for your dental visit.
Take the time to examine local dentists and determine if you need an office that practices in specialties like pediatric dentistry, sedation dentistry, or even just family dentistry. Make sure your choice of dentist is covered by your insurance or, if you don’t have insurance, call to ask about any payment requirements or available plans.
You may require any number of the most typical dental procedures, so mentally prepare for them and remember that modern dentistry focuses on pain-free, low-anxiety oral health.
It may be scary, but allowing yourself to receive dental care can greatly improve your life and overall health. If you need a friend, don’t be ashamed to bring someone along with you. After all, your dentist has seen it all and is just happy you are there.