Doctor, Why Are You Hurting Me?

Dr. Steven Goldberg DDSDr. Steven G. Goldberg, DDS, FADFE

The very thought of going to the dentist sends chills up the spine for many people.

According to upwards of 40 million Americans avoid dental care as a direct result of anxiety and the fear of pain.

These statistics are compelling when you consider the consequences of pervasive dental neglect. Maintaining optimal oral health is essential to good overall health. Unfortunately, too many people fail to realize that their teeth and gums share tissue, nerves, and blood with other parts of the body.

Overcoming the fear of going to the dentist:

Communication with the dental professional is the key to overcoming the fear of going to the dentist.  But what if you weren’t able to effectively communicate?  What if you didn’t even understand why you were sitting in the dental chair in the first place?  And worst of all, the dentist gives you a painful injection in your mouth, and all you can think of is “doctor, why are you hurting me?”

This is a dilemma facing millions of dental patients who require special attention from dental professionals, more specifically, special needs patients. These patients need dental care and depending on their condition, may or may not be tending to their teeth, or may lack the physical ability, mental capacity, or emotional wherewithal to do so.  Left untreated, these patients are susceptible to tooth decay, gingivitis, periodontitis, and the myriad of complications that can eventually result from inadequate oral hygiene, including potential fatality.

Dentists are more prepared to treat patients with special needs:

As this special segment of our population increases, dental professionals are receiving a much greater, more in-depth education on methods, modalities and compassionate ways to treat patients with special needs.

In 2004, the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) adopted a new standard that directs dental and dental hygiene programs to prepare dental professionals for the care of persons with special health care needs.  According to CODA, “Graduates must be competent in assessing the treatment needs of patients with special needs.”

Family members can help:

– Family members of those with special needs can be effective in preparing special-needs patients for a dental appointment. These individuals can assist in care for the disabled by supervising daily toothbrushing, flossing and the use of an antimicrobial mouth rinse.

– Because dental treatment of those with special needs may require additional time, staff attendance and office preparation, family members must see to it that dental appointments are made regularly and as far in advance as possible.

– The caregiver should remain in the operatory during treatment. This can have a calming effect on the patient, as well as support the dental team when needed.

– Bring patients who require special attention on a non-treatment trip to the dentist.  Make it a fun visit.  Meet the doctor and the staff, and don’t forget to make a stop at the treasure chest.  The next treatment visit will be that much easier.

New Scientific Technology reduces anxiety and pain:

Special needs patients already deal with an inordinate level of stress and anxiety due to their underlying condition and the sheer number of medical appointments that they must attend. Providing these patients with the most comforting experience possible will substantially reduce their anxiety.

The dental injection is by far the most painful part of any dental procedure.  After all, once you’re anesthetized, the dental procedure is relatively painless.  DentalVibe® Injection Comfort System is a new scientific device that dentists use to block the pain of dental injections. When using the DentalVibe on a patient with Autism, Dr. Victor Avis, DDS of Staten Island, NY said  “it was amazing, Justin sat comfortably and acted as if I had done nothing at all!”  Dr. John C. Comisi, DDS, MAGD of Ithaca, NY said, “Andrew holds out two fingers, resembling the vibrating prongs of the vibe, before I begin a procedure, I won’t ever treat him without it!”

There are certainly challenges inherent in the dental treatment of patients with special needs, but they are far from insurmountable.  With recent advancements in dental technology and education, these challenges will be overcome.

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