you fear most about going to the dentist? Just the thought of having a
needle inserted into your cheek and a cavity removed from your tooth is
enough to bring tears to the eyes. However, surprisingly it is not the
actual dental procedure that most often terrifies patients. According to
surveys, the site of a needle and the sound of the drill were the two most
feared elements of dentistry. It may seem strange, but visual stimuli,
sounds and even memories can actually enhance pain. In fact, fear and anxiety
related to dental procedures very often complicates matters. It is comforting
to know that just as the mind can trick you into interpreting sights and
sounds as pain, so too can the mind be used to control pain. In this article,
we will explore the reasons behind the severity of dental discomfort and
offer options for its control.
Pain - Is It All In Your Head?
step in managing or eliminating the discomfort involved with going to the
dentist, is understanding its source. In many cases, the myths about dental
pain often outweigh the realities and the anxiety caused by these myths
further intensifies the pain.
to the perceived pain brought on by intimidating sights and sounds, other
factors such as your state-of-mind can effect the level of discomfort experienced.
A high level of stress and irritability makes it more difficult to control
pain. Although the reasons are not fully understood, the effect of anxiety
on the body's ability to suppress pain is significant often requiring that
the patient be premedicated with anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium.
of the oral cavity's proximity to the brain, as well as the complex nerve
structure of the head and neck, dental pain is often more severe than pain
in other parts of the body. Of the 12 cranial nerves that control motor
and sensory functions of the head and neck, the Trigeminal Nerve or 5th
Nerveis responsible for sending pain signals to the brain. The Maxillary
Nerve and Mandibular Nerve sections of the Trigeminal Nerve relay pain
signals from the upper and lower teeth.
of the most troublesome biological factors that dentists must deal with
is bacterial infection. In addition to the sensitivity caused by infections,
the initial inability of oral infections in the teeth and boney structures
to drain results in the build up of pressure. As bacteria quickly multiplies
and produces gaseous toxins, pressure increases and pain results. If an
infection is neglected for even a day or two, the pressure can become intolerable.
straight forward dental procedures, controlling pain and fear can be controlled
by utilizing relaxation tools such as Nitrous Oxide or Hypnodontics. However,
other more complex procedures, such as surgical scaling and root canal
therapy, require nerve blocks in combination with relaxation therapy.
the most important way to reduce the pain involved in maintaining oral
health is by focusing on preventive care instead of the treatment of problems.
If you've put off going to the dentist for years and have neglected regular
flossing or brushing, you may be experiencing advanced stages of tooth
decay or gum disease - both painful problems. The further decay spreads,
the more radical the treatment required. This causes trauma to the tooth
and gums that results in discomfort.
has come a long way over the last few years and many of you will be surprised
on your next visit. Even if you have put off going to the dentist and are
experiencing problems, your dentist has new ways to provide relatively
painless treatment. For invasive procedures such as wisdom teeth extraction,
biopsies and complex root canal surgery, nerve block are often administered.
This involves the injection of an anesthetic to block sensation to the
nerve that sends pain signals to the brain. By blocking the nerve with
an anesthetic, the dentist can numb the area requiring treatment for a
specific period of time. To eliminate the discomfort associated with injections,
topical agents are applied to tissues prior to the injection. This combined
with the use of Nitrous Oxide or "laughing gas" for relaxation can often
reduce the pain, fear and anxiety associated with shots. Although still
experimental, laser technology may soon change the way dentists treat tooth
decay. Currently, lasers are being used for soft tissue management and
in other areas of medicine such as eye surgery and skin treatments. However,
in some laboratories, dentists are attempting radical new treatments involving
the use of lasers to melt cavities. While initial efforts have experienced
only moderate success, the use of laser technology could someday eliminate
the need for intimidating drills and surgical instruments.
of the Mind
somewhat controversial, many dentists today coach their patients in hypnodontics
- a form of hypnosis to control dental pain. Through the combination of
Nitrous Oxide and deep relaxation techniques, patients can be relaxed to
ease anxiety. For those who prefer to limit the use of pain medication,
practicing deep relaxation techniques to reduce stress and building a strong
relationship with a dentist you respect and trust can go a long way towards
a relatively painless dental experience. A soothing atmosphere and a calm,
reassuring dentist can make your next dental visit more pleasant.
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