Dentists Manage your Pain & Anxiety

by Dr. Anson Hooper, DDS, Hooper Family Dental

Recently I was teaching my daughters the principle of preventative medicine. Though it can be challenging for them to understand, a visit to my office to have a filling placed often helps confirm the principle.

In dentistry, we often see the ramifications that come from choosing to forgo the care and attention required to maintain a healthy smile.

It’s refreshing to know that dentistry has changed a lot in the last few decades in regard to how we deal with and manage pain and anxiety in the dental chair.

According to the ADA (American Dental Association) “acute orofacial pain can result from pathological conditions, underlying disease processes, and/or their treatment. Pain can be attributed to conditions affecting the hard tissues such as caries (cavities) of the enamel, dentin and cementum, or it can be due to soft tissue conditions such as gingivitis and periodontitis.”

When we experience these symptoms, oral analgesics and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been shown to be the most effective at reducing oral pain and are recommended as the first-line therapy for acute oral pain management. Using these medications can help manage your symptoms until you have a chance to visit your dentist.

The following are a few of the approaches used in managing pain and anxiety:

  • Anesthetics — Topical anesthetics are often administered in a gel form with a swab and are routinely used to numb the area in the mouth prior to injections, followed by a local anesthetic.
  • Nitrous oxide (aka laughing gas) — A gas, which when inhaled, helps patients feel relaxed. This is the most common form of sedation used in dental offices.
  • Oral sedation — An oral medication, this works on the central nervous system to help patients relax. The effects of these medications take about 30 minutes to be felt and can cause lingering drowsiness, so a patient escort is indicated.
  • Intravenous sedation — Involves injecting a sedative into a vein of a patient’s arm or hand. This approach is usually reserved for patients undergoing extensive dental procedures and/or for extremely anxious patients.
  • Lasers — Some dentists are now using lasers to remove decay within a tooth and prepare the surrounding enamel for placement of a restoration. Lasers may cause less pain in some instances and can result in a reduced need for anesthesia.