Q. Why do you need to have regular dental care check-ups?
A. Regular check-ups are needed to monitor your overall oral health. In addition to checking for cavities, your dentist examines the health of your entire mouth and surrounding soft tissues, checking for pre-cancerous or cancerous lesions, oral sores, and gum disease.
Your oral health is connected with your general health. Dental care check-ups can alert the dentist to other medical conditions that have symptoms in the mouth such as diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, and hormonal irregularities. Regular dental care visits are vital to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and other conditions affecting your mouth.
Q. What can you do to feel more relaxed during a dental care appointment?
A. With the combination of modern anesthetics and new conscious sedation dentistry technology and techniques, many procedures only have minimal discomfort or are now entirely painless. Dental care providers want their patients to have maximum comfort and approach their treatments with a relaxed attitude and less dental anxiety.
There are a number of ways to decrease dental anxiety:
- Tell the dental care staff your concerns. Studies have shown that talking about your fears of possible discomfort actually reduces pain.
- Use visualization to picture yourself relaxed, or repeat messages that have a calming effect.
- Play your favorite music on a walkman you bring with you (some dental offices are equipped with walkmans, too.)
- Arrange a signal with the dental care staff, such as raising your hand, if you need a break or feel discomfort.
Some dental care offices are now offering patients new options for stress-relief: hypnosis, self-hypnosis instructions, relaxation tapes, soft lighting, warm gel-filled eye masks, scented candles, and massaging pillows. These are helpful in reducing stress in patients that suffer from dental anxiety. Be sure to avoid the use of stimulants such as caffeine prior to your visit.
Q. Aromatherapy has a relaxing effect for many people. Is this effective for patients undergoing dental treatment?
A. Research studies conducted at Case Western Reserve University have noted that the use of aromatherapy has a significant positive effect on dental anxiety patients. Two-thirds of the patients receiving aromatherapy were more calm and relaxed than those patients without exposure to the scented fragrance oils.
Dentists are concerned about your comfort. Ask your dental provider if aromatherapy is available in the office to help reduce dental anxiety, or if you can bring your own for your dental care visit. Essential fragrance oils are available in health food stores, spas, and some grocery and drug store outlets.
Q. Are dental patients who are considered at risk for bacterial infections advised to take antibiotic medication prior to their appointments?
A. Certain medical conditions, such as heart valve problems or a recent total joint replacement, are considered at risk for infection at the site of the cardiac abnormality or joint replacement. This infection results from bacteria from the mouth entering the bloodstream and working its way to these vulnerable areas.
Consequently, dental care procedures likely to result in bleeding from the gums or mucous membranes will require patients to take antibiotics prior to that procedure. Such procedures could include, but are not limited to, extractions, implant surgery, incision and drainage for oral infection, and professional teeth cleaning.
Guidelines have been established by the American Heart Association and the American Dental Association to provide dentists and physicians with information regarding appropriate regimens for antibiotic therapy. It also outlines those situations when antibiotic therapy is or is not indicated.
There also are other medical conditions warranting antibiotic therapy prior to dental procedures. Be sure to update your dentist regarding your medical history. Your dentist and/or physician will advise you of any special needs.
Q. Where can you receive dental services if you do not have the money to cover the related expense?
A. If you do not have either dental insurance or the money to pay for a dental visit, you should inquire about financial aid from various sources within your community.
You may need to make several calls, but the local dental society, the local public health department, or social service agencies may be able to direct you to sources of assistance. Also, check local hospitals, dental schools, and outreach clinics that may be able to provide dental services at a reduced fee.