About half of adults don’t go regularly to the dentist and a big proportion of that group are phobic. Dental-phobia can be caused by a bad experience as a child with a heavy handed dentist, or any number of other negative experiences.
This is totally understandable; the mouth is an incredibly sensitive area — it contains more nerve endings than anywhere else in the human body and it’s natural to flinch when someone puts their fingers in your mouth, never mind when they start using metal tools to scrape and drill your teeth.
The way we get over dental-phobia at Aquae Sulis is by listening to our patients. Listening to their story, realising what it is that’s made them frightened and addressing those issues. We treat anxious patients very carefully, very slowly and at their pace, explaining everything as we go, and just doing what they’re comfortable with.
Sedation is really important because even with a gentle approach there are times when it’s just too much of an obstacle for patients to overcome. Intravenous sedation is a brilliant way to get patients relaxed and take away the butterflies, and it means that often they won’t have a memory of the procedure.
Patients under conscious sedation can respond to commands such as “open your mouth” and while they might drift off to sleep, it’s a sleep they can come round from, so it’s a very safe and gentle procedure.
Patients feel a bit sleepy for a few hours following the procedure and we make sure there are arrangements in place for them to be chaperoned for 24 hours afterwards. It’s forbidden to drive, sign legal documents or be responsible for children within 24 hours of receiving conscious sedation.
Where patients remember the dental procedure they report feeling very relaxed with no anxiety. Sedation lowers the blood pressure and makes people able to cope with dental procedures comfortably, a good example being the way it takes away the gag reflex.
The gag reflex is quite a normal reaction for patients to have when they feel that something may go down the back of the throat, and it completely goes away under conscious sedation. If we are doing an impression in the patient’s mouth (for a crown, for example) patients can choke and struggle with the feeling, and sedation simply takes all that unpleasantness away.