Fear of the dentist or having dental work is actually a very common phobia. Many people avoid the dentist until a toothache is so painful that they can no longer go without treatment. Other people only go if there is a serious problem, such as a broken tooth or an abscess. When asked, many people remark that their hesitation is rooted in a fear of the unknown. Most dental procedures, however, are entirely painless, and many that are rumored to hurt are often much less unpleasant than the rumors would have you believe. These include cavity fillings, root canals, and regular tooth extractions.
One of the most common dental procedures is the filling of cavities. Let’s examine what happens when a cavity is filled. First, the dentist will give the patient some kind of anesthetic to make sure they’re comfortable. Often, this begins with a shot, which is what most people are terrified of. While the injection itself does not have to be painful, this can often come down to the dentist’s skill and care. To compensate for this, some dentists will use nitrous oxide (also known as “laughing gas”) to help calm the patient so that he or she can administer injections while the patient is a little more relaxed. Some dentists will also apply a topical anesthetic in order to numb the injection site, which will further reduce any pain.
After the patient’s mouth is numb, the dentist will then prepare the mouth for the filling. He or she may use a rubber dam in order to keep liquids from saturating the mouth, and some dentists use a bite block so that the patient can prop his or her mouth open without straining their jaw muscles. This helps the patient to stay relaxed and reduces overall tension. Once the patient is numb, the dentist will begin removing the damaged area of the tooth. This is the part of the filling procedure that makes many nervous. The sound of a high-speed drill can be unsettling for more sensitive patients, but at this point they won’t be feeling any physical discomfort whatsoever at the site.
Finally, the dentist will replace the damaged area (and also fill in the tooth to its original dimensions) with either an amalgam filling or a composite resin filling. It is normal to feel some sensitivity for a few days after a filling, but this will disappear in a short time.
Many patients believe that root canals are usually painful; however, it is not the procedure itself that is painful – it is the underlying abscess or other infection that is causing the pain. So, how can any pain be avoided? The dentist will often prescribe antibiotics to kill the infection (abscess) before the root canal is scheduled. Once the infection is gone, a major culprit that causes pain during a root canal no longer exists. The dentist will also provide nitrous oxide and other anesthetics to prevent pain during the procedure. You should feel no pain during this procedure.
Sometimes a pesky tooth just has to come out – a crowded mouth, infections, periodontal disease – these are just a few reasons why you may need a tooth extraction. In addition to the applied anesthetic, the dentist or oral surgeon will typically prescribe pain medication for after the procedure, so the patient should never have to feel any pain.
The dentist office doesn’t have to be a scary place!