John* has not been to the dentist in 10 years.
John suffers from dental anxiety. When John was a kid, he never really liked going to the dentist. He always thought the office was a little strange, and the way he remembers it, his childhood dentist was kind of mean.
When he moved out on his own, he just sort of stopped going to the dentist office. He does remember to brush his teeth, and he flosses … sometimes.
But he’s been wondering lately if he should go back to the dentist.
Lucky for John, he lives near Billings, MT, so he can visit Legacy Smiles.
* John is not a real person, but many people can relate to his situation.
Visiting The Office
John isn’t alone in being afraid of the dentist. No one knows for sure, but some estimates are that up to 40 million Americans are affected by dental anxiety.
John knew that going to the dentist wouldn’t be easy, so he wanted to take things one step at a time. He wanted to check out the office and meet the people there before he scheduled an appointment.
When he walked into Legacy Smiles, it was not what he was expecting. The dentist office he went to as a child was sterile and cold from the moment you entered the front door.
Legacy Smiles was different. The staff welcomed him and asked how they could help. He noticed a few patients waiting. They seemed comfortable, cozy, and relaxed.
John learned that patient comfort is an integral part of the dental practice at Legacy Smiles.
If he decided to schedule a cleaning and examination, he could get a pillow so his head would be more comfortable (although the chairs seems pretty comfortable on their own). He could request a blanket to feel more cozy. He could even get headphones to listen to music during his cleaning if he wanted.
John also found out that he could schedule a longer appointment as well. This way he could take breaks if he felt bothered by anything during the treatment.
High-Tech Dental Care
John also learned about a few other ways that the Legacy Smiles team keeps their patients’ comfort in mind.
The first thing is through technology, like the Waterlase. This is a dental laser, but it’s more than just a fancy tool.
The Waterlase can be used to treat gum disease, to reshape teeth, and to cut into teeth when needed. And it doesn’t hurt. This device passes the laser through a stream of water, which allows it to cut soft tissue or teeth without causing pain.
Legacy Smiles also has a digital X-ray machine. This produced 98 percent less radiation exposure than on older, more conventional X-ray machines.
Another tool they use is a cone beam scanner, which can produce 3D images of his mouth and head. This is something they used to diagnose problems and plan treatments to be as effective as possible.
John did some research online about dental sedation, and he wondered if that was available to him. He’d learned that many people with dental anxiety take advantage of sedation dentistry, so they can receive the treatment without being fully aware of what is happening.
To John, that seemed like it might even be the best way to go to the dentist.
Legacy Smiles offers four kinds of dental sedation.
• Nitrous oxide is the mildest form of sedation they offer. The staff explained that nitrous oxide is a gas that patients inhale when they come for a cleaning or other treatment.
This works quickly, and when the treatment is over, it wears off quickly, too.
• Oral conscious sedation is a little stronger. The patient takes a pill to ease his or her anxiety, and by the time the procedure begins, he or she is drowsy or asleep.
The effects last for a few hours, so he would need a ride home if he tried this option. (That’s also the case for the other two kinds of dental sedation.)
• IV sedation can only be administered by a licensed professional, and this is generally reserved for longer procedures.
• General anesthesia is the highest form of sedation. This must be administered by an anesthesiologist, and it’s only used for the most complex issues.
John felt pretty good about what he learned during his visit to the dentist in Billings, MT. Before he left, he went ahead and scheduled an appointment for a cleaning and examination. He had a feeling that Legacy Smiles would become a regular part of his oral care.