The following interview is Part 2 of a featured interview published in the 2019 Ashland Local’s Guide. You can read Part 1 here.

I like that you address that head on. I’m beginning to see how real dental anxiety can be. How about #3?

#3 was touched on earlier, but it is the fear of not being in control. For example, a patient fears that, once tipped back in the chair, it is just going to be an invasion of their personal space with a whirlwind of activity, chatter, and action that they can’t control, even if they wanted to.

The way I give space to this fear is a formula of friendly chit-chat before and after but 100% quiet focus during treatment. We always review a patient’s treatment before starting, give them an idea of the chronological order of things, explain how we will be on the lookout for their left hand to move even a twitch (I joke that they can test me with even the slightest movement of any finger, but that I prefer a “thumbs up” versus other popular single digit expressions!) and then … we shut up. From start to finish we barely say a word. The patient feels a succession of actions that feel logical, purposeful, and gentle. According to our reviews and feedback, this flow and the systems around the workspace give a patient a great deal of assurance that we are in control and they are in control.

That’s another one I hear about. It seems most people do not like being talked to while being worked on or feeling like the dental team is distracted. And #4?

The fourth is financial fear, especially when it has to do with the cost of large treatment plans. Financial fear and a related fear, that of being taken advantage of, should be remedied by trust. The first easy way to build trust is with excellent dental photographs (in addition to x-rays). Digital photographs let a patient see their teeth for themselves and lead to a very clear decision about what the patient would like to address. The second method is a very detailed treatment plan, decided on ahead of time, that shows what you will be doing all the way until the very last appointment if possible.

One recommendation I have is to work with your dental office on the treatment plan and then ask how it can be divided into the fewest appointments possible to qualify for an overall discount. Dentistry is essentially billed out according to the doctor’s time. By allowing your dentist to work efficiently, you should qualify for a discount. Just be sure to make it to those appointments.

One big challenge for a fearful patient is being able to follow through with actually showing up. That’s understandable, but if this is the case for you, let the office know and start by making short appointments for a couple simple procedures in the beginning. Soon, you will have no problem showing up.

I can understand that. When I contemplate high medical expenses it creates an anxiety that feels almost like a concern for the procedure itself.

Yes, for sure! Me too. When patients are faced with a large treatment plan, it is very easy to become overwhelmed. When combined with true anxiety, the result is postponement and a worsening condition.

This brings me to another topic. There are many ways to address the financial burden of a larger treatment plan. Here are some examples of how to make your treatment more affordable:

-       Crowns (without prior root canal treatment) generally do not require “buildups” – there you go, you just saved $300 per tooth!

-       Don’t blow your budget on one tooth with a poor prognosis and leave others with minor decay untreated (in this case, you might extract the tooth and fix the other teeth for the same cost).

-       You may be able to temporarily opt for large fillings instead of crowns, on select teeth, to save money. This is typically a better option than optimal treatment if it means halting the decay process.

-       If you’re considering dentures vs fixing teeth, you should know that full upper dentures can look and feel great. If at all possible, try to keep as many lower teeth as possible to support a lower partial denture.

-       Don’t suffer because of the price tag of implant-supported dentures, if that’s your ideal treatment. You can always do regular dentures for now and get implants to support those dentures in the future if you choose to.

-       When missing teeth, get your self esteem back by wearing an inexpensive “flipper,” “stay plate,” or “Nesbit” in areas where you are missing teeth and can’t afford dental implants.

-       There are many dental financing options offering 0% financing.

-       Modern dental offices have their own membership plans now that cover all your preventative services (exams, x-rays and cleanings) for a low monthly cost.

-       If you are a longstanding patient with an office, they will most likely extend to you a monthly payment plan on your word. This is great motivation to establish a dental home and let them get to know you.

-       Don’t be afraid to ask an office to barter dental services for your services or wares.

-      Ask to be put on a “short call list” so the office can slide you into the schedule on short notice if they have an opening pop up. This convenience of filling an opening in their schedule may afford you a discount on your treatment.

So it seems sedation or laughing gas isn’t the magic ingredient in handling dental fear.

Right! Forms of sedation are great and certainly indicated for emergency situations or surgery, but in fact, it can be another barrier to long-term dental health. The real benefit of overcoming fear without sedation or gas is that a patient becomes free of fear and able to have routine cleanings and dentistry with no problem. This dental confidence is also a gift given to one’s child, as dental fear seems contagious.

Whether or not a person is a patient of Soulsmile, I hope they can live free of dental anxiety and achieve the dental health of their dreams.

Thanks for dedicating this interview to helping folks with dental fear.

My pleasure. Thank you, Shields.

If you’re looking for Part 1 of this feature, you can read it here. And if you’d like to check out the original article, you can see it here.