Afraid Of The Dentist? How Fear Can Lead To Missing Teeth.

added on: February 27, 2020

It’s normal to “back burner” things we don’t like doing. Some people dread doing their taxes, postponing the task until the last minute. Some people go to the grocery store only when they are running low on food. Many of us know people who put off doing the laundry until they have little choice.

I think we all have been procrastinators at times. However, as a Shelby Twp dentist for over two decades, I know that putting some things, such as dental care, can have much greater consequences than others.

I’ve seen dental fear have such a profound effect on some people that they’ll avoid seeing a dentist until an emergency need arises. I’ve seen patients who are so nervous that they have a “white knuckle” grip on the arms of a dental chair.

Having a fear of seeing a dentist affects over 70 percent of American adults, by some estimates. When people are afraid of going to the dentist, they often fail to receive regular care necessary to maintain a healthy smile.

In a study published by the Dental Research Journal, nearly 59 percent of nearly 500 participants were found to have dental fears. The study included males and females of varying ages and education levels. Although females had a higher likelihood for dental fear, there was very little difference elsewhere. (

While twice daily brushing and daily flossing are beneficial in maintaining healthy teeth and gums, having dental checkups and cleanings are what provides a periodic “fresh start” for oral wellness. This lowers the risk for developing problems between check-ups by removing tartar (also known as calculus), which has built up from accumulated plaque.

Plaque is actually a biofilm of bacteria that coat the teeth and gums. If not removed, this film hardens, usually in as little as 48 hours.

Tartar is a cement hard form of oral bacteria that can no longer be removed by brushing or flossing. (Using special tools, this is what your dental hygienist is scraping off teeth during cleanings.) Tartar attaches to teeth and attacks gum tissues. It is also potent enough to bore into healthy tooth enamel.

As the bacteria mass thrives and reproduces, the gum tissues become inflamed. This causes tender gums that may bleed when brushing teeth. Many people are unaware that bleeding and tenderness is a sign of gingivitis, the first stage of periodontal (gum) disease.

When gum disease is not treated, it progresses. The gum tissues around teeth become swollen and red. Breath odor is persistently bad and the gums become spongy.

Eventually, the problem can lead to the advanced stage of gum disease, periodontitis. During this, gum tissues loosen their grip around the base of teeth. Pus pockets may form on the gums and teeth may loosen. Some teeth may require removal. Gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss.

So, here is the dilemma. To prevent people from losing a tooth (or teeth) because of dental fear, how do they set those fears aside in order to have the treatment they need?

In our Macomb Co. dental office, we offer oral sedation as well as I.V. sedation (or “twilight sleep”).

Oral sedation is a pill that helps patients relax. It also has an amnesiac effect, leaving most with little or no memory of treatment afterward. IV sedation places the patient in a deeper sedative state, also erasing memory of the procedure. All sedated patients are monitored with advanced safety equipment and specially-trained staff throughout treatment.

Our advanced technology also helps reduce treatment time while increasing comfort. And, for lengthier procedures, some patients combine several appointments into just one or two. With the help of sedation, they can enjoy total relaxation with a pleasant recovery afterward.

Delays in treatment can greatly increase the costs required to restore the gums to a healthy state. With regular care, people are often able to avoid problems in the first place or have small problems treated while they’re still small.

Our entire staff have a sincere level of compassion and commitment to excellent care. While the doctors involved in your care are top-notch, I must admit that our staff are aces at making our patients feel truly pampered.

Some people feel more relaxed after beginning with a conversation in our consultation room. This room is removed from the clinical side of the practice where we sit in comfy chairs and discuss specific needs and goals. We take the time to answer questions thoroughly and can recommend options that take the edge off your fear or anxiety.

For most, after their first appointment, they feel more relaxed. Others need several visits to realize that dentistry doesn’t have to hurt. Still others can’t help but be uneasy during dental appointments and we understand this. Every person is different and we tailor the pace and comfort options according to each one’s need.

Today’s dentistry, in the right hands, should never hurt. Here, we take great pride that many patients who first come with dental fears find that sedation is not necessary after one or two visits. I feel this comes from developing a relationship of trust, helping each person to know their comfort is a priority at every visit.

If you’ve lost teeth because you’ve found it difficult to have regular dental care, let us help you halt the process. Statistics show that a lost tooth increases the risk for neighboring teeth to be the next to be lost.

It can also help to read my “Guide For The Fearful Dental Patient.” This booklet can be requested by calling 586-739-2155 or downloaded at: DrBarbatGuideForFearfulPatient

It may also be helpful to speak with some of our once-fearful patients who now have healthy, confident smiles. Ask to be put in touch with some during your consultation to have a ‘first-hand’ understanding from people with similar issues.

Call 586-739-2155 or tap here to schedule a no-charge consultation.

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Dr. Ban R. Barbat

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