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Dental Anxiety and Fear

Overwhelming fear of dental appointments can be a common cause of anxiety.  Many people visualize a drill-wielding man in a white coat just waiting to cause pain and remove teeth.  The reality, however, is very different.  The comfort, relaxation and happiness of the patient are embedded deep at the heart of any good dental practice, and for Dr. Nattkemper, are essential aspects of care for every patient.  Dr. Nattkemper and his staff do all they can to reduce anxiety, allay fears and provide comfortable treatment.

Recent technological advancements have meant that in many cases, dentists are able to replace noisy drills with painless laser beams, extensive, painful surgical procedures with refined, delicate and virtually painless microsurgical procedures.  There are also a wide variety of safe anesthetics available to eliminate pain and reduce anxiety during routine appointments.

Here is a list of some of the most common dental fears:

  • Fear of embarrassment about the condition of teeth.
  • Fear of gagging.
  • Fear of injections.
  • Fear of loss of control.
  • Fear of not becoming numb when injected with Novocain.
  • Fear of pain.
  • Fear of the dentist as a person.
  • Fear of the hand piece (or the drill).

How can one overcome dental anxiety?

Dental anxiety and fear can become completely overwhelming.  It is estimated that as many as 35 million people do not visit the dental office at all because they are too afraid.  Receiving regular dental check ups and cleanings is incredibly important. Having regular routine check ups is the easiest way to maintain excellent oral hygiene and reduce the need for more complex treatments.

Here are some tips to help reduce dental fear and anxiety:

Talk to Lloyd – Dentists are not mind readers, but Dr. Nattkemper is extremely empathetic and concerned about your comfort.  Though it can be hard to talk about irrational fears with a stranger, Dr. Nattkemper and his staff are experienced in taking special  precautions during visits if fears and anxiety are communicated.

Ask us about music – Music acts as a relaxant and also drowns out any fear-producing noises.  Listening to calming music throughout the appointment will help to reduce anxiety.  We provide headphones with a huge variety of online music stations to allay fears and take you to a place you feel comfortable.

Agree on a signal – Many people are afraid that the dentist will not know they are in significant pain during the appointment, and will carry on the procedure regardless.  The best way to solve this problem is to agree on a “stop” hand signal with the dentist.  Both parties can easily understand signals like raising the hand or tapping on the chair.

Spray the throat – Throat sprays (for example, Vicks® Chloraseptic® Throat Spray) can actually control the gag reflex.  Two or three sprays will usually keep the reflex under control for about an hour.  We have other numbing sprays that work great too.

Take a mirror – Not being able to see what is happening can increase anxiety and make the imagination run wild.  Watching the procedure can help keep reality at the forefront of the mind.

Sedation – Dr. Nattkemper offers oral sedation for patients who are fearful of procecures, and recommends it especially for longer procedures.  This is a wonderful option for many people.  In addition, nitrous oxide is available for shorter procedures and cleanings.  For especially apprehensive or for severely medically compromised individuals, a dental anesthesiologist is available to provide deep sedation. 

Ask about alternatives – Advances in technology mean that periodontal microsurgery is now an option.   In fact, Dr. Nattkemper is one of the most experienced periodontal microsurgeons in California, and teaches his techniques to other periodontists.  Lasers can be used to provide many of the same results that traditional periodontal surgery has done for 40 years.  Discuss your options with your dentist, and consider discussing them with Dr. Nattkemper if your dentist feels you would benefit from his approach and skills. 

If you have questions or concerns about how we can help you overcome anxiety and fear, please contact our office.

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