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No-Fear Dental Visits
Meet Dentistry's Softer Side


by DR. BICH-NGOC TRAN

Original article can be found in the Nov-Dec 2008 edition of Phoenix Woman

Today's women are powerful creatures. We juggle careers, families, fitness and our own social calendars all with a smile on our faces. We are women-hear us roar … unless, of course, we have to go to the dentist. Then, it's more like a whimper. But before you put off your biannual checkup yet again, you should know that dentistry has come a long way from its torture chamber days with stale odors, sterile decor and the awful cry of the dreaded dental drill. Going to the dentist these days can almost feel like a visit to the spa, complete with comfortable dental chairs and the latest in technology to significantly reduce patients' dental anxieties.

THE SCARY STATISTICS

Statistics show that only 20 percent of the population actually goes to the dentist twice a year as recommended. We have all been scolded many times to brush our teeth and floss daily in order to maintain healthy teeth and gums or face the repercussions: gum disease and cavities, which will eventually lead to the loss of our precious teeth.

What most of us don't realize, however, is that oral heath impacts the rest of the body. Studies have shown that not only is going to your dentist important for maintaining a healthy mouth but also a healthy heart. And it can go beyond that: A healthy mouth has actually been shown to control diabetes. Several theories exist regarding the link between increased bacteria from gum disease and heart disease. However, we know the risk of heart disease more than doubles in those with gum disease.

Even more staggering: More than 80 percent of patients who experience both diabetes and gum disease will encounter some degree of heart disease, compared with 20 percent of diabetic patients without gum disease. Severe gum disease and diabetes affect one another. One of the complications from uncontrolled diabetes is the weakening of the immune system that would otherwise battle gum disease.

Conversely, gum disease can also make it extremely difficult for diabetic patients to control their blood sugar levels. Yet, even with these findings and our basic knowledge of the importance of good dental hygiene, women still tend to put off that trip to the dentist out of-dare we say?-fear.

IT'S NOT YOUR MOTHER'S DENTAL OFFICE!

Each patient's fear is uniquely different, but fear of the dentist usually stems from a traumatic childhood experience. Common fears include the awful, screeching noise of the drill that gets to us like fingernails on a chalkboard, the inability to have control over the 10 nauseating, latex-covered fingers probing around your mouth and, of course, pain! Some of us may even remember our teeth being drilled into while feeling every electric shock pulse on the tooth or the 10-foot-long needle that was intended to put the tooth to sleep. It's hard to give dentistry a second chance when these memories are still so vivid and, perhaps, slightly exaggerated in our minds. That said, today's dentistry is not the way you remember it in your still-fresh childhood nightmares.

Dentists have expanded their services beyond the drill-and-fill to create a more pleasant experience for their patients. The dental experience in the 21st century starts with a warmer and more inviting decor. And, in most dental offices, a light and fresh scent has since replaced the stale odor from the daily use of dental medicaments. Patients today are generally greeted by a smiling, friendly staff that will continue to make you feel at home during your visit with niceties such as a beverage and your very own remote to control the flat screen TV placed conveniently on the ceiling.

IMPROVED TECHNOLOGY

Not only has the ambiance changed with the times, but so has the technology. Noisy, screeching drills have since been replaced with the softer buzz of the more precise electric drills. In certain cases, smaller cavities can even be removed with a laser-sans those 10-footlong needles!

Even soft-tissue surgeries can be treated with the laser and without injections or more painful recovery time. Treatments such as correcting "gummy" or "uneven" smiles, frenectomies to prevent relapse from orthodontic treatments to speech problems, and even bandaging a cold sore all can be done with the no-shot laser. Due to the laser's decontamination properties, patients can walk away from a laser treatment with no downtime and without the need for pain medication.

The laser acts much like a bandage treated with Neosporin placed over an open wound. In the same way a cut heals quicker with the use of Neosporin, the laser promotes faster healing with very little bleeding. Your dentist now serves as an advisor, guiding you through your own personalized treatment of which you are in control. The introduction of the pen-like, intra-oral camera can help patients understand exactly what's going on, alleviating any fears of the unknown. Intra-oral cameras allow patients to see exactly what the dentist sees in their mouths via images instantly displayed on a computer screen in front of them and resulting in a better understanding of their own dental health.

In addition to intra-oral cameras, digital x-rays reduce radiation exposure to patients by 90 percent compared with traditional x-rays.

Patients can also view their digital x-rays in a color format instead of a black and white format, for an even further visual understanding of their teeth.

Invisalign clear trays are designed for those who are not happy with a crooked tooth but have chosen not to have it corrected with traditional braces. Instead of unsightly metal brackets, these clear plastic trays are worn over the patient's teeth and are practically undetectable.

With the major advances in technology and a strong focus on patient comfort, the dentist's office really isn't what it used to be. And technology in the dental industry will only continue to advance. But, if you're still a little leery about opening up, do just that; talk to your dentist about your concerns. Remember, as women, one of our most powerful tools is our gift of speech. Any good dentist will understand and help you overcome those deep-rooted fears so the health of your mouth doesn't suffer. Try to release the dread, and if all else fails-there's always laughing gas.

Dr. Bich-Ngoc "Bicky" Tran, owner of Simply Dentistry in Scottsdale, has eight years of professional experience in the Valley. A graduate of Oregon Health Sciences University School of Dentistry, her vision is to provide the optimal dental experience and care with dedication, integrity and compassion in a sustainable environment.

 

 

 







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