What do you fear most about going to the dentist? Just the thought of having a needle inserted into your cheek or a dental cavity being cleaned with a drill is enough to bring tears to the eyes. However, it is surprisingly not the actual dental procedure that most often terrifies patients. According to surveys, the sight of a needle and the sound of the drill were the two most feared elements of dentistry.
In our office, we have used the Painless Injection for years. It may seem strange, but visual stimuli, sounds, and even memories can enhance pain. In fact, fear and anxiety related to dental procedures very often complicates matters.
It is comforting to know that just as the mind can trick you into interpreting sights and sounds as pain, so too can the mind be used to control pain. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind the severity of dental discomfort and offer options for its control.
Dental Pain – Is It All In Your Head?
The first step in managing or eliminating the discomfort involved with going to the dentist is understanding its source. In many cases, the myths about dental pain often overshadow the realities and the anxiety caused by these myths further intensifies the pain.
In addition to the perceived pain brought on by intimidating sights and sounds, other factors such as your state of mind can affect the level of discomfort experienced. A high level of stress and irritability makes it more difficult to control pain. Although the reasons are not fully understood, the effect of anxiety on the body’s ability to suppress pain is significant, often requiring that the patient be premedicated with anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium.
Because of the oral cavity’s proximity to the brain, as well as the complex nerve structure of the head and neck, dental pain is often more severe than pain in other parts of the body. Of the 12 cranial nerves that control motor and sensory functions of the head and neck, the trigeminal nerve or fifth cranial nerve is responsible for sending pain signals to the brain. The maxillary nerve and mandibular nerve sections of the trigeminal nerve relay pain signals from the upper and lower teeth.
One of the most troublesome biological factors that dentists must deal with is bacterial infection. In addition to the sensitivity caused by infections, the initial inability of oral infections in the teeth and boney structures to drain results in the buildup of pressure. As bacteria quickly multiplies and produces gaseous toxins, pressure increases and pain results. If an infection is neglected for even a day or two, the pressure can become intolerable.
Controlling Dental Pain
For some straightforward dental procedures, pain and fear can be controlled by utilizing relaxation tools such as nitrous oxide or hypnodontics. However, other more complex procedures, such as surgical scaling and root canal therapy, require nerve blocking in combination with relaxation therapy.
Dental Health Maintenance
Of course, the most important way to reduce the pain involved in maintaining oral health is by focusing on preventive care instead of the treatment of problems. If you’ve put off going to the dentist for years and have neglected regular flossing or brushing, you may be experiencing advanced stages of tooth decay or gum disease – both painful problems. The further decay spreads, the more radical the treatment required. This causes trauma to the tooth and gums that results in discomfort.
New Advances in Dentistry
Dentistry has come a long way over the last few years that many of you will be surprised on your next visit. Even if you have put off going to the dentist and are experiencing problems, your dentist has new ways of providing relatively painless treatment.
For invasive procedures such as wisdom teeth extraction, biopsies, and complex root canal surgery, nerve blockers are often administered. This involves the injection of an anesthetic to block sensations to the nerve that sends pain signals to the brain. By administering an anesthetic to the nerve, the dentist can numb the area that requires treatment for a specific period.
To eliminate the discomfort associated with injections, topical agents are applied to tissues prior to the injection. This, combined with the use of nitrous oxide or “laughing gas” for relaxation can often reduce the pain, fear and anxiety associated with shots.
Although still experimental, laser technology may soon change the way dentists treat tooth decay. Currently, lasers are being used for soft tissue management and in other areas of medicine such as eye surgery and skin treatments. However, in some laboratories, dentists are attempting radical new treatments involving the use of lasers to melt decayed parts of the tooth around cavities. While initial efforts have experienced only moderate success, the use of laser technology could someday eliminate the need for intimidating drills and surgical instruments.
The Power of the Mind
Although somewhat controversial, many dentists today coach their patients in hypnodontics — a form of hypnosis to control dental pain. Through the combination of nitrous oxide and deep relaxation techniques, patients can be relaxed to ease anxiety. For those who prefer to limit the use of pain medication, practicing deep relaxation techniques to reduce stress and building a strong relationship with a dentist you respect, and trust can go a long way towards a relatively painless dental experience. A soothing atmosphere and a calm, reassuring dentist can make your next dental visit more pleasant.
The Impact of Teeth on Social Perception
It makes sense to equate one’s oral health to their general hygiene or grooming. It’s like when a person comes in for a job interview looking prim and proper, they’re more likely to put a better impression on the employer. On the other hand, someone who comes in in their office attire with hair unbrushed, nails untrimmed, and the like, they’re likely to be rejected.
Although the social perception of teeth has largely evolved over time, with people appreciating straight, white, clean teeth, many still directly link the condition of one’s teeth to their identity, especially amidst today’s bigger cultural, social, and biological trends. Class difference has come out as an emerging pattern associated with good teeth, as crooked, misaligned teeth with visible dental decay are seen as an outcome of lack of motivation to develop oneself. This widely perpetuates the link between dental outlook and oral health and their correlation to social success. It is possible that in settings like these, imperfect teeth might imply a general lack of responsibility and self-control, which again lies outside of the conformity of fitness — something which is widely seen as an attractive trait.
Social Expectations on the Appearance of Teeth
People who do not fit into the notion of a good set of teeth might have the same prejudice many employers have unknowingly. In multinational companies, the employees are seen to represent the organization and their physical appearance is greatly emphasized. It might not be a conversation made out loud but there is an expectation of sorts to look a certain way and be presentable in all ways. And while some might disagree and argue that one’s value in their workplace doesn’t lie solely on how they look, it is a significant contributing factor in large firms or certain professions like customer service, sales, or international relations and law to name a few.
Social and Physical Effects of Dental Problems
Numerous studies show that being stereotyped by one’s peers at adolescence and becoming an outcast lead to low self-esteem issues and social anxiety. These are carried in later life into their professional life and personality.In addition to the mental repercussions, dental disease also has systemic implications, with diabetes and respiratory disease being on the upfront.
The patterns and general trends in the 21st century arising from social stigmas and perceptions have all narrowed down to a different and perhaps better world.Oral and systemic health are interlinked, so societal conformity isn’t the only thing to consider here.We must also have a general awareness of oral health as a whole and its importance in today’s world.
Your smile is often the first thing that people notice about you, and it can have a significant impact on how you are perceived by others. By extension, your teeth play a crucial role in the appearance of your smile, and so their condition can affect how others perceive you in social situations.
Some Ways Teeth Can Influence Social Perception
Some Ways to Improve Your Smile
If you are unhappy with your teeth or feel that they are impacting your social perception, there are several options available to improve their appearance. These include:
Your teeth can have a significant impact on how others perceive you in social situations. If you are unhappy with your teeth, there are several options available to improve their appearance and boost your confidence. Talk to our dentist to learn more about the options that are available to you.
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