“Nothing personal, Doc, but I hate the dentist!” Have you ever said this? Dentists hear it every day. Most don’t take it personally because they understand that many people have a fear – or even phobia – of the dentist, which most likely stems from past dental baggage and unpleasant experiences.

Many of today’s dentists try to help people enjoy the process of dental care by minimizing discomfort. They know that many patients had bad experiences with fillings or tooth extractions as a kid. Even though today’s techniques are much different, these phobias become ingrained in people.

Combatting Dental Phobias

Many dentists now use nitrous oxide as a mild sedative to facilitate relaxation. Patients also get flavored topical anesthetics that are applied for five minutes and completely anesthetize the tissue before they get injections that will numb them up. Today’s treatment rooms are also much more comfortable. Patients can wear sunglasses to decrease visual stimulation and listen to music through headphones. This is called audio analgesia. These types of visual and auditory analgesia help to take the edge off.

Another cool trick: when a dentist gives an injection, they can wiggle your lip or use a machine to vibrate the tissue to further confuse the nerves, so you feel wiggling and vibration and not pain.

Medication to Calm the Fear

Many dentists are now using anxiolytic agents (in pill form) to relax patients before and during their appointments. These drugs make people feel sleepy and help produce a more relaxed state so their dental work can be completed. These medications include Valium, Alprazolam,  Ativan and Clonazepam, as well as sleeping agents like Halcion, Sonata and Ambien.

Lastly, there is intra-venous sedation, which uses sedative hypnotics and muscle relaxants to fully sedate people for their dentistry. Most people are familiar with this because it’s what’s often used for wisdom tooth extractions.

So don’t let your fear keep you out of the dentist’s chair! Instead, openly discuss your fears with your dentist and allow him to help you figure out what will make you comfortable while you receive the treatment you need.