It is not uncommon for an individual to avoid dental visits for fear of the experience. Sometimes it is the result of an unpleasant experience earlier in life. The sound of the dental equipment can cause anxiety, as can an anticipation of bad news. Unfortunately, it is a negative cycle when a person fails to visit the dentist for a long period of time because small dental issues become bigger, the cost of treatment is higher and the need for all of the noisy equipment increases.
“Active oral disease is a progressive process,” advises Dr. Cye Jekel. “Once a problem arises, it will not repair itself nor get better on its own; a cavity becomes bigger and bigger, a cracked tooth cracks more and the decay process continues and if the crack isn’t addressed, it cannot be saved with a crown. The patient is then faced with the choice of a bridge or an implant.”
Gum disease continues to progress as well. Gum recession that earlier could have been treated with a deep cleaning (scaling and root planing) will eventually require gum surgery. Surgery is something to avoid.
“Our ultimate goal,” continues Dr. Jekel, “is to help our patients have healthy teeth and gums for a lifetime and retain their original teeth. It’s easier on the patient and on us when we address problems in the early phases.”
Dr. Jekel, who is calm by nature, recognizes that some patients experience varying degrees of fear and dread when visiting him. First, he says “it’s critical that I am aware of their anxiety. They don’t need to come in with the mentality that they are going to ‘buck up’ and handle it. I spend time discussing the particular fear and when it arose. I explain exactly what I will be doing, the tools I will need and strive to comfort and assure the patient.”
Dr. Jekel’s team seeks to ensure each patient’s comfort. Sometimes he or she is more comfortable with a neck pillow, a blanket or listening to music. It may be determined that the patient needs medication to manage the underlying anxiety, although, this isn’t ideal. Dr. Jekel has, at times, limited the amount of time the patient is in the dental chair by structuring treatment into more visits of shorter duration even if the treatment can be accomplished with fewer appointments. “I design the treatment plan according to the needs of the patient, Dr. Jekel explains. Ideally, we execute the treatment in the fewest number of appointments, but if there is a need to reduce the anxiety trigger and proceed with treatment differently, we do.”
“I am extremely gratified when I have a patient who confronted the fear of coming to see me and we guide them through treatment benefiting the patient with a healthy mouth. They realize that if they come back in six months from the completion of their treatment, they likely won’t be going through the same degree of treatment in the future.”
Dental phobia is real. When patient and doctor are candid about the issue, healthy teeth and gums for a lifetime can be achieved!