Is it going to hurt, Doctor?

How scared of your dentist are you? Behavioral studies show that about 75 percent of patients are moderately to severely fearful of going to the dentist. It’s the reason for a question that Dr. Carol Ford gets asked often, “Is this going to hurt?”

“Fear increases tension and tension increases the perception of pain,” Dr. Ford says. “So an important part of pain prevention starts with knowing the client and building trust.”  Once the client is familiar with the dentist, the staff and the surroundings, tension is greatly reduced, and the tension-fear-pain cycle is broken. “The entire staff focuses on generating a supportive environment; it’s important for a client to be surrounded by a relaxed and positive atmosphere,” Dr. Ford continued.

Much of the relaxed atmosphere comes from the natural setting of the office. A patient looking out the window will be treated to the site of an urban lake, sparkling fountains arcing water into the blue sky, and ducks making themselves at home.

Technology also contributes to fear reduction. The Wand is a relatively new technology-controlled way to reduce fear of needles and shots. A computer- controlled dental injector, the Wand replaces long needles and big syringes with a plastic instrument that looks like (and is held like) a ballpoint pen. The “sting” or “pinch” most people feel with a needle is caused by the local anesthetic being pushed into the gum too fast. The Wand eliminates the initial pain because the anesthetic is delivered slowly at first, allowing the patient to feel little or no discomfort. Once the area is numb, the injection can speed up.

Patients who are sensitive to the sounds of drills and drains in a dentist’s office will appreciate the noise-cancelling earphones available in Dr. Ford’s office. “Letting a patient listen to their choice of satellite channel is a big help in keeping them calm and relaxed,” Dr. Ford says. “But of course, we also have traditional anesthetics like nitrous oxide. For the occasional patient who can’t tolerate any pain and who is very stressed, we do have a single-dose oral sedative. But most patients react very well to the earphones and a comfy blanket if they are cold,” Dr. Ford adds, smiling. “We like to keep our patients comfortable, and we like to see their smiles when they know we care about them as a whole person, not just as teeth and gums.”





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