4 Steps to a Pain-Free Dentist Visit
Don't make excuses to put off that cleaning! Here, 4 ways to ease the agony of the drill, and stop dreading the dentist.
Step 3: Take advantage of new technology.
Pain relief has come a long way since your first trip to the dentist's chair. You now can choose among pharmaceutical options such as nitrous oxide (which wears off within minutes), sedatives (requiring a designated driver post-procedure), and even local or general anesthesia, depending on how involved the procedure is. Some dentists use technology like Waterlase, a laser-energy and water-spray process, for everything from root canals to cavity preparation. The tool doesn't generate heat, vibration, or pressure — perfect for people who cringe at the screech and shakiness of a drill. Dreading a pre-filling needle? Rub-on lidocaine creams dull your gums before the prick. For more in-depth procedures like root planing, dentists can slide a numbing drug called Oraqix under the gum line using a blunt-tipped instrument, avoiding needles altogether.
Currently in the works: pepper-based pain killers that dull sensation without causing numbing or paralysis, and a plasma brush that uses chemical reactions to remove decay (rather than a drill). Make sure to ask about new tools and medications before your appointment, so your dentist can have them ready on your arrival.
Step 4: Open up and say "spa."
A new breed of dentist's office, called the dental spa, gives you the illusion that you're in for a massage instead of a root canal. In front of each chair you'll find flat-screen TVs; you can also don noise-canceling headphones to dull the drillage. Some offices even offer mini massage treatments.
No dental spas near you? No worries. Get yourself calm before your next appointment by dabbing relaxing lavender or chamomile essential oils at your temples and pulse points. Bringing a heated neck wrap, a squeezable stress ball, or an MP3 player loaded with your most happy-making tunes can help too. While in the chair, practice slow, deep breathing through your diaphragm to counteract that fight-or-flight adrenaline reaction (your body's response to stress). And smile! By getting to those appointments, you're doing something great for your dental — and whole-body — health.
Originally published on January 29, 2009
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