Take the fear out of going to the dentist

Do you enjoy going to the dentist? Not many people do.

In fact, more than 75% of adults experience some type of dental anxiety about the pain they might face at an appointment.

The dentists at NOVA Dental Anesthesia in Burke, Virginia, believe you don’t need to shy away from oral care. Here’s why: The sedation dental practice specializes in helping patients to manage their dental anxiety.

Don’t let fear stop preventative oral care

Dr. Yasamin Rasool, dentist and practice partner, said on WTOP’s Get on Top of Your Health program, that avoiding dental care can have a negative impact on your overall health.

“The mouth is the entrance to the rest of the body,” Rasool said. “The bacteria that’s present for individuals who have periodontal disease can enter your bloodstream and travel down your respiratory and digestive tract and start to affect your whole entire body. These patients are twice as likely to have heart disease and, as a result, have increased risk of having heart attack and stroke. They also have an increased risk of developing certain cancers, such as head and neck, kidney and pancreatic cancer.”

She added that preventative care is extremely important because individuals who avoid going to the dentist or cannot be treated by a traditional dentist sometimes end up in a hospital for dental treatment. “Sometimes the result is to extract the tooth, when maybe the tooth can be saved,” Rasool said.

Despite the potential health risks, there are a number of reasons people avoid the dentist’s chair. They can include difficulty getting numb, having a sensitive gag reflex, a childhood trauma or having special needs.

And that’s where sedation dentistry comes in.

What is sedation dentistry?

“Sedation dentistry can actually make the patient be the most relaxed person in the dental office and help them get the dental treatment they need,” said Dr. Rafil Ali, a dentist anesthesiologist and partner with Nova Dental Anesthesia.

Ali said there are different types of sedation used.

“On the mild to moderate side, we could do something with nitrous, also known as laughing gas, and also oral sedation, which are pills to relieve the anxiety of the patient before the procedure,” he said. “We also have deep sedation. We can do this for longer periods of time for longer procedures, extensive dental treatments, patients who are allergic to local anesthetic, patients that have certain types of medical conditions or even dental treatment that is more invasive that requires a secured airway.”

Sedation dentistry, not a one-size-fits-all approach

Dr. Wissam Ali, Nova Dental partner and dentist anesthesiologist, said there are times when he will tell a patient he’s going to start without anesthesia. “We start slow because some are not sure, and they’re afraid. At any point if we notice the patient is not comfortable, we change the plan. So, the flexibility of tailoring the appropriate sedation level for that patient is tailored to their needs.”

This, he said, is part of what differentiates Nova Dental Anesthesia from many other practices.

“We are continually training our staff every day. The facility itself is tailored to serve many purposes, whether it’s psychological or clinical,” Ali said. “When the patient comes in for consultation, we want them to relax. We don’t want our patients to see anything that reminds them of a drill or anything like that.”

He added that the dental practice is set up for all types of procedures, from X-rays and cleanings to more involved treatments. “Sometimes they could have a pretty extensive treatment that includes fillings, deep cleanings, crowns, having to do a root canal on the tooth because of the extent of the cavity, sometimes extractions, wisdom teeth that need to come out,” Ali said.

But he cautioned, there are cases which can’t be completed in one day. “First you have to control the infections in the mouth,” Ali said. The next appointment is followed by oral hygiene instructions to the caregivers, families or the patient on how to maintain better oral health.”

A subsequent appointment might include molds for crowns or placing implants — splitting up the treatment to accomplish the best results.

Who would benefit from sedation dentistry?

Dr. Rafil Ali explained that in addition to treating people with anxiety and dental phobias, the practice also treats patients with special needs, an underserved population in the dental community. “These include but are not limited to patients with autism, ADHD, Angelman syndrome, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, mental challenges, physical and other mental disabilities, dementia, Parkinson’s and much more.”

Over time, patients often become less fearful, and dental anesthesia doesn’t have to be a life-long commitment, he said. “We’ve gotten some of our patients to a point where maybe they’re able to do a cleaning or an exam without the use of sedation.”

A recent visit from a six-year-old patient proved his point.  “In the past, this patient required anesthesia for a few fillings and stainless steel crowns,” he said. “The other day, we were able to do an exam cleaning and X-rays without the use of nitrous.”

Rafil Ali summed up, “That was just a wonderful experience for the patient and for the mother.”

Sedation dentistry offers hope

The dentists said their practice provides access to dental care for patients who otherwise would not be able to receive the appropriate treatment. “We believe that everyone, regardless of their medical condition, previous experience, fear, mental or physical disability, should receive high-quality dental care without experiencing another traumatic experience”  Wissam Ali said.

Rasool added, “We always want to make sure that the proper follow-up is done and that the oral cavity is kept very healthy. Because in the future, we don’t want to do more expensive treatments. We want to be more on the conservative side, and we want to see our patients come in with healthy mouths.”

To learn more about sedation dentistry, visit the NOVA Dental Anesthesia website. And to discover additional tips and tactics to get on top of your health, click here.

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