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Combating Dental Anxiety And Odontophobia: Painless Anesthetic Delivery And Conscious Sedation

Updated: Apr 2

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Combating Dental Anxiety

Dental anxiety is a very common problem.

In this series we’ll discuss combating dental anxiety and odontophobia through painless anesthetic delivery and conscious sedation.

Studies have shown that as much as 75% of Americans suffer from dental anxiety to some degree. They may feel apprehension before their appointment, even to the point where they delay or avoid going to the dentist.

Odontophobia – irrational fear of dentistry – is not the same as dental anxiety. Various studies have found that around 10% to 20% of Americans suffer from this more severe form of the same condition. Patients with odontophobia feel more than just a little anxiety about going to the dentist – they feel fear, dread, even terror. Their symptoms may even be so pronounced that they have a panic attack when sitting down in the dentist’s chair. Sufferers of odontophobia are extremely unlikely to go to the dentist, even in the face of a life-threatening condition.

Thirty years ago there was little dentists could do to help sufferers of moderate to severe odontophobia. Fortunately, technological advancements and new procedural methods available nowadays can help everyone get the treatment they need.

Dr. Snyder uses two main tools to work with patients who suffer from dental anxiety and odontophobia and get them the care they need: painless anesthetic delivery and conscious sedation. In this series, we’ll take a look at both of these tools, how they work, and how they can help people get the dental treatment they need to stay healthy.

The Importance Of Treating Dental Anxiety

Avoiding dental treatment can have dire consequences. Despite the best efforts of brushing and flossing, cavities do still happen. A cavity is just an infection of the tooth, and it can be just as serious as an infection anywhere else in the body.

The first and most common consequence of avoiding the dentist is chronic pain. Many sufferers of dental anxiety and odontophobia report living with mouth pain daily for months or even years before seeking treatment. Nobody should have to deal with this kind of pain when the answers to their problem are out there.

If left untreated, a cavity can escalate into a more and more dire condition, and can even be fatal. Over time, it will grow into an abscess, often between the teeth and gums. If the patient continues to avoid treatment, the infection can pass into the bone marrow or bloodstream, spreading to the major organs, causing sepsis, and eventually even death.

Help For Odontophobia Sufferers

Painless anesthetic delivery

For many sufferers of dental anxiety and odontophobia, their fear of the dentist stems from a fear of needles, or anticipation of the pain and discomfort that accompanies a numbing shot. This is where painless anesthetic delivery comes in. With modern painless anesthetic delivery technology, we can make it so the patient won’t even feel the needle going in. Of course, once we can get the numbing agent in, they won’t feel the rest of the procedure either. Dr. Snyder uses two tools to deliver anesthetic without pain: the Wand and DentalVibe.

The Wand

The wand is a computer assisted system for delivering local anesthesia. It is a highly precise tool, so much so that it can be used to delivery tightly contained numbness. The makers of the Wand call this technique Single Tooth Anesthesia (STA).

The Wand’s computer assist system has two main functions. First, it precisely controls the flow and pressure of anesthetic. This means it can be used to anesthetize in a highly efficient manner, using no more fluid than is necessary. This decreases patient discomfort and allows for highly targeted numbing – no more leaving the dentist’s office after a procedure with half of your face numb!

Dental Vibe

DentalVibe is another great tool for delivering anesthetic without pain. Unlike The Wand, DentalVibe doesn’t deliver anesthetic. Instead, it is used to apply vibration to the area where the injection will take place. It may sound a bit strange, but numerous studies have shown that this vibration overwhelms the nerve that would carry pain signals to the brain. Instead of feeling the pain and discomfort of the injection, all the patient feels is a light buzzing in their mouth. According to their website, “95% of the patients that have experienced the DentalVibe Injection Comfort System say that it has changed their view on going to the dentist.”

Conscious Sedation

Conscious sedation is another invaluable tool in providing dental care to those with dental anxiety and odontophobia, especially in cases of moderate or severe odontophobia. Sometimes also called sedation dentistry or sedation analgesia, conscious sedation involves the use of pharmaceuticals to relieve fear and anxiety, combined with anesthesia to prevent pain once it’s time for the procedure to begin.

Many practitioners use intravenous medication in conscious sedation. Dr. Snyder and her team; however, use orally administered medication, or medication given through a mask.

To better understand conscious sedation, let’s take a look at the levels of sedation and what they look like:

Mild sedation – under minimal sedation, the patient will be relaxed but still conscious. They will remember the procedure and be able to understand and respond to instructions. While the patient must be closely monitored, supplemental oxygen is not required at this level of sedation.

Moderate sedation – under moderate sedation, many people fall asleep easily. However, they will awake just as easily when spoken to or touched. Their memory of the procedure may be foggy, and they generally won’t be able to understand or follow instructions. The patient must be closely monitored and oxygen may be used at the deeper levels of moderate sedation.

Deep sedation – under deep sedation, the patient will sleep through the procedure. They will have little or no memory of the procedure. They will be unresponsive to instructions. The patient will be very closely monitored, often with multiple sensors placed on the body to track respiration, heart rate, and blood oxygenation. Supplemental oxygen is used often in deep sedation.

Conscious sedation deals with mild and moderate sedation. However, no two people respond the exact same way to sedation, so it’s critical that the patient is constantly and closely monitored regardless of the level of sedation. For the vast majority of patients, even those with moderate to severe odontophobia, moderate sedation will be sufficient to overcome their fear and anxiety so they can get the treatment they need.

To find out more about the dental services offered by our dentist in Albuquerque NM, Dr. Snyder, call (505)-293-7611, schedule an online consultation or visit us at 4830 Juan Tabo Blvd. NE, Ste. K, Albuquerque, NM, 87111.



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