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» How I Overcame My Fear of Going to the Dentist

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If the thought of going to the dentist makes you break out in a cold sweat, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. Along with countless others, I have suffered for years with dental anxiety that has almost kept me from going to the dentist.

The only thought that scared me more than going to the dentist was a terribly painful dental condition developing all because I spent so much time not going to the dentist. With the help of friends and family, I got down to the business of finding a dentist who would address my fears and needs.

Finding the Right Dentist

The first step in finding the right dentist is getting opinions from trusted friends and family members. It’s especially helpful if one of these people also deals with dental fear or anxiety – he or she will most likely have a dentist who listens carefully and works together to provide comfort in this stressful situation.

From these suggestions, take time to research each dentist online. As you look through reviews and websites, make a list of questions that you want to ask your potential dentist during an interview. Your questions will vary depending on what you find on the website, which will include philosophy of dental care, educational background, additional experience and training, special services offered, and an explanation of those services.

When I interviewed my dentist, I made an appointment and paid attention to how I felt just walking in to the office. It was important to me to feel welcome and cared for, and my dentist sat with me in the waiting room where we talked for a long time about how I felt and what I needed. He assured me that we would work together to keep me comfortable and coming back to see him regularly, and he’s lived up to that promise.

How Dental Sedation Can Help

One of the methods my dentist suggested would help is nitrous oxide sedation, also known as “laughing gas.” I received a special nosepiece that I bring to the dentist each time I go, and they set me up with nitrous oxide for regular cleanings as well as more complicated services when needed.

At first, I wasn’t sure about using nitrous oxide. “Dental sedation is appropriate for all levels of dental care,” states Dr. Paul Chung, a Portland sedation dentist. “When researching sedation dentists, it’s important to look for one with significant training and experience in all types of sedation.”

Fortunately, my dental needs don’t require more intense sedation, which include “twilight” sedation through oral medication or “conscious” sedation through an injection. Should this become an issue, however, I would carefully research whether or not my dentist is qualified to administer it – if not and I didn’t feel comfortable with that, I would ask for a referral.

Making a Final Decision

Which brings me to my final point – when it comes to dealing with dental fear or anxiety, take your comfort seriously. It’s essential to not only call and/or email, but to set up an appointment to discuss your needs with the dentist. Pay attention to your “gut instinct” when you walk into a dentist’s office. Talk with the staff and the dentist honestly about your fear and anxiety.  What happens after that will let you know if you should stay or if you should keep looking for someone who will work with you to maintain a healthy smile despite your fear.

Kelly Wilson is a freelance writer who faithfully goes to a great dentist every six months. If you’re looking for a dentist with a listening ear who will help you with your dental anxiety, contact Dr. Paul Chung at Springwater Dental, a Portland sedation dentist.

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