When people of a certain age, think baby boomers and before, go to the dentist, the first thing some of them think about is needles and drills. It’s not the best mental image, and it can take a bit of convincing for patients to realise that there is such a thing as pain-free dentistry. Dentistry without pain is a reality these days!
Some people probably remember going to the dentist in childhood, when there weren’t as many pain relief options. If you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, it might surprise you to learn that dentists have ways of making your visit relatively pain free.
Pain relief can range from us simply taking time with you, or using nitrous oxide, ‘laughing gas’, all the way to full sleep dentistry, where our patients are blissfully unaware of the procedures we’re doing, and wake up with the work done.
One of the biggest hurdles dentists have to overcome in making a patient’s visit pleasant is to create an atmosphere of trust. Many patients who are particularly nervous become more relaxed over time if we do things to build their trust. One of the important first trust builders we do is to spend time getting to know our patients and their needs and wants. We listen to any concerns and discuss all issues and treatment options, involving them in the decisions about their dental care. We then take our time to treat them as carefully, respectfully and pain free as possible. One thing that can really help reduce fear during treatment can be as simple as just letting them know in advance what we are about to do, if they wish, so they can process what is happening. Sometimes just letting them take a breather during an appointment can really help people manage their fears also. Providing music or podcasts of their own choosing is a great distractor during an appointment and helps patient realise we really are here to help them with their dental care in as relaxed a setting as possible.
So, as we become more familiar to them, they trust us and their fears then reduce. For some patients though, there may always be an element of fear about treatment and we can look at other aids to help manage this fear.
Options for pain-free dentistry
Laughing gas, or nitrous oxide, is a great aid to calm anxious patients.
It helps people to relax and distracts them from what is happening whilst also providing a little bit of pain relief.
If something stronger than gas is required to provide comfort for our patients, we offer IV sedation as the next step. The process involves a sedationist who attends and gives the patient a stronger drug, administered through their veins. With this method, patients may remain a little awake or be asleep—but they won’t remember anything about the treatment. It depends on the dose. They reach the end of the appointment and everything is done.
In reality though, we usually find that pain-free dentistry can be achieved well before the patient requires full sedation and many patients appreciate the care we give in helping them have a pleasant dental experience.