Passionate Artistry

For Dental Cowards

cavityDo you have a ravaged mouth? Are you missing four or more teeth? If so, chances are you get sweaty every time you think of the dentist? You may avoid the inevitable, only to find that delays result in more expense and longer treatment sessions. New techniques can reduce your fear to a minimum and literally reduce pain to a non-issue, so that you can proceed with necessary dentistry.

Many older patients can remember the advent of the air driven dental drill and disposable needles in the 1950’s. These were great advances at the time, but did not fully meet the real desires of our patients. Dentists have heard these comments hundreds of times:

  • The person who invents a silent drill is going to make millions!
  • When are they going to develop painless shots?
  • I wish I could just go to sleep and wake up with my teeth fixed!

There are now solutions to all of these problems. Due to cost considerations in running a business, most dentists offer some, but not all of these solutions. You may want to ask about their availability if you are ready to experience “the new dentistry”.

Painless Dental Injections

More than ever, dentists are trained to give painless injections using the same instruments that have been in use for several decades. The biggest help in receiving pain free injections is communication. When a patients share their fears, the dentists is motivated to do better than ever to impress the patient. Dentists almost always succeed using a variety of techniques.

The Wand is one of several available commercial products that replace the standard syringe and needle to deliver anesthetic painlessly. The Wand delivers anesthetic with a very light and steady flow that prevents the pressure of the injection from reaching the painful point. Dentists who do not have the Wand, attempt to duplicate the slow, steady technique. Other available devices deliver anesthetic around root surfaces to numb just a single tooth. This is handy on a stubborn tooth and for patients who hate the “numb all over” feeling.

New Ways to Drill Teeth

Several new dental drills are now available that produce less than one-third of the harsh sound and very little vibration compared to the drills available for the past 40 years. If you require any extensive dentistry, ask your dentist if he can treat you with one of these new drills.

Painless drilling is really not drilling…it does not involve the dental drill or rotary cutting instruments. There are two popular technologies for painless drilling:

Air abrasion systems use tiny abrasive particles suspended in a high-pressure air stream to cut the tooth. Air abrasion is most effective on very small cavities on the biting surface or outside surface of the tooth. In addition to its whisper quiet sound, air abrasion’s biggest advantages are that less tooth needs to be drilled and that it does not contribute to crazing of the enamel the way the traditional drill can. In most cases, anesthetic isn’t required for air abrasion and the patient will experience the feeling of cold air being blown on the teeth. Air abrasion is a bit messy, but more affordable than the laser (below).

Dental lasers have become increasingly popular as a replacement for the scalpel and sutures in providing soft tissue surgery. These laser treatments heal faster and far less than surgery. Now, after many years of promising development, hard tissue lasers are available that can “drill” teeth. The hard tissue dental laser has similar uses as air abrasion systems, so most dentists will have one or the other, but not both. In use, the laser makes a very soft crackling sound, which experience shows is not at all bothersome to patients. In most cases, anesthetic is not required for fillings done with the dental laser.

Digital X-rays That Lower Radiation

Many dentists now use digital x-rays rather than x-ray film. You will find this particularly beneficial if you have a fear of excess radiation from medical and dental x-rays. Digital x-rays reduce x-ray exposure to just 10-30% of what is required with x-ray film.


The standard of care for dentistry now requires magnification for both diagnosis and treatment. Dentists now use tiny intraoral and digital cameras to explore your mouth and view existing conditions. The images from your exam may be displayed on a television or computer monitor. Dentists wear magnifying telescope lenses when treating you. Some will even use surgical microscopes for delicate procedures. Working under magnification provides better, longer lasting results.

Other Tools of the Trade

You may also benefit from several other technological tools of dentistry. These include measurement devices for electronic root canal treatment, muscle contraction, and tooth shades.

Sedation Dentistry

In the 1970’s, nitrous oxide was popularized as a relaxant during dental procedures. This popular gas is still in use by some offices, but others have changed to more advanced sedation techniques to meet the needs of the most fearful patients.

Oral conscious sedation is increasingly popular for use on adults undergoing any prolonged dental procedure. If your dentist is trained and recommends oral sedation, you can expect to be given a pill, such as triazolam (Halcion), midazolam (Versed) or diazepam (Valium), one to twelve hours prior to your appointment. Oral sedatives are easy to administer by any adult and the patient is ready to treat upon arrival or after an additional dose at the dental office. Dentistry can be performed in shorter and fewer visits. Many patients experience amnesia, making the dental visit a truly non-memorable event!

The various states have their own training requirements for the use of oral conscious sedation. A great place to look for a qualified dentist is provided by The Dentists’ Organization for Conscious Sedation (D.O.C.S.), an organization that provides advanced training in conscious sedation techniques.

Intravenous (I.V.) sedation is used by some dentists, particularly periodontists, for procedures from one-half hour to several hours in length. The patient remains conscious, but extremely relaxed and the procedure, and may even have some amnesia regarding the procedure.

General anesthesia can be administered in the dental office for longer procedures. This requires a licensed anesthesiologist in addition to the treating dentist. General anesthesia is especially indicated for the extremely apprehensive patient who refuses treatment if awake. The savings in future dental expenses and the reduction of future negative dental experiences far outweighs the additional cost for this safe procedure. If you are a candidate for general anesthesia during dental work, ask your dentist if he contracts with an anesthesiologist that comes to the dental office. For medically compromised patients, hospitalization may be required for necessary dentistry. Most hospitals have staff dentists that provide dentistry in the hospital setting.

The new technologies of dentistry are creating more patients who actually enjoy going to the dentist. Patients who have avoided the dentist for five, ten or even fifteen years are discovering that there are dentists who can help them make the transition back to health, free from their painful experiences of the past.

If you would like to learn more about the dental procedures and treatments performed by cosmetic dentists Dr. Rob Strain, DDS  and Dr. Laura Wittenauer, DDS please call us at 760.568.9494 or click here. Serving new patients in Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs, Palm Desert and surrounding areas.

Next Chapter: Dental Insurance Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

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