Life as we once knew it in NYC is returning with a vengeance. Restaurants and bars are now open; baseball stadiums and basketball arenas are filled with spectators; midtown Manhattan is welcoming back the workforce, and people are bustling all around…without masks!
Society is re-finding its footing and everyday life has a more recognizable cadence. At my dental office, things are really perking up. We’re almost as busy as we were pre-Covid. I say almost because some of our patients are still hesitant to get on a commuter train, hop in a cab, take the subway, or just venture into midtown. I completely understand.
Even in normal times, there are those who are so busy with work, family, and personal responsibilities that they have little time for self-care.
Fear Of The Dentist – More Intense After The Pandemic
But there are those among us who’ve always found it tough to pick up the phone and make their dental appointment – even when they know that something isn’t quite right. These folks are not procrastinators, they truly have a tremendous fear of the dentist. With well over a year since they last sat in a dental chair, people who are afraid of the dentist are now even more afraid – of what the dentist might find.
If fear of the dentist typically keeps you away even during good times, there’s a good chance that what you’re most afraid of is pain. But listen – in addition to delivering compassion, empathy, and reassurance, most dentists today are also committed to keeping you from feeling pain.
For example, in my practice, we always administer the right amount of anesthetic and allow enough time for it to work. We make sure our patients are completely comfortable before treatment begins. If your fear of the dentist is the result of your fear of the possibility of pain, I want you to know the mission of most modern dental practices is this: “do not hurt those who seek help.”
If the pandemic erased any thoughts about getting that sometimes sensitive tooth looked at, having that chipped tooth examined, addressing the occasional tenderness in your gums, or having a tooth whose filling was pulled out by a cheap piece of candy checked, I know what’s going through your head:
“Do I need a root canal?” “Do I need gum surgery?” “Is my tooth loose?” “Does it need to be extracted?” “Is it going to hurt?” “How long will it take?” And, of course, “How much will it cost?”
Listen, if you think something’s wrong in your mouth, but you’re too afraid of the dentist to find out, ponder this: dental pain is not always a sign that something is seriously wrong. Sometimes dental sensitivity can go away after a simple cleaning. But, some things, when neglected, can become much more serious.
For example, a chipped tooth that’s changed color could mean decay is developing. That sometimes sensitive tooth that’s persistently aching could be a signal that the nerve is inflamed or possibly infected. Gums that were tender but are now swollen and bleeding may mean you’re developing periodontal (gum) disease. And that filling-less tooth, if left to its own devices, can lead to a terrible toothache and may need a crown.
Fear Of The Dentist Can Result In Serious Problems Elsewhere In Your Body
Research has proven that problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body. Poor dental health has been linked to cardiovascular disease, respiratory infections, diabetes, and even dementia.
I understand how fear of the dentist can paralyze you. You’re scared of what the dentist is going to find; you’re terrified of the needle; the sound of the drill makes you nauseous, and the prospect of an enormous bill is frightening. The Covid experience has only served to heighten dental fears.
If your worries about the cost of dentistry outweigh even your fear of the dentist, remember: knowledge is power. Once the scope of your needed care is determined, ask your dentist for a staged treatment plan that will spread your dental care over an extended period of time.
A caring dentist will educate you, guide you, keep you in the driver’s seat, and make sure you do not feel any pain. Take the first step; just schedule the d—n appointment already!
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