Don’t Let Dental Anxiety Prevent You from Improving Your Smile

By Ryan Lehr, DDS on July 22, 2019
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Don’t Let Dental Anxiety Prevent You from Improving Your Smile

Patients are often anxious about the process of getting dental implants. It's a significant oral surgery, but can have many long-term positive effects on your appearance, smile and dental health.

It's important to keep in mind that dental implant surgery, when performed by a qualified implant dentist, is the most effective method of replacing missing teeth. It has an excellent success rate, and provides stable, long-lasting replacements for your natural teeth. These results simply can’t be duplicated with older methods, like bridgework.

There are several questions and concerns I often hear from patients in my own practice. Here are the honest answers I provide to my patients to help address these anxieties:

1. Will I have a missing space while I wait for my permanent tooth?

There will be a period of a few months between putting in the implant and getting a permanent replacement tooth. In the meantime your dentist will provide you with a temporary replacement tooth (or temporary denture for multiple missing teeth) that looks like your natural teeth and won't cause any disruption to your appearance or smile. When done well, a temporary can have similar strength and stability to the permanent crown that will replace it. This temporary tooth is placed the same day of your first procedure, so there’s no reason to have aesthetic concerns in the meantime.

2. Is getting a dental implant painful?

Many patients are worried about pain during or after placement of dental implants. Rest assured that AAID dentists are trained in the most advanced dental implant and pain management techniques available. This makes getting a dental implant a painless experience during and after treatment. Local anesthesia is always used during the implantation, and your dentist will often prescribe medication for post-operative discomfort to make sure the experience is mostly painless in the days following treatment, as well. 

If sedation dentistry is available from your dentist's office, conscious sedation is a good way to eliminate both pain and anxiety during your visit. For very nervous patients, sedation can provide a much less stressful experience and allow the dentist to work more quickly and effectively. However, even without sedation, there should be no pain involved in getting dental implants.

After implant placement, mild soreness is expected, but is typically minimal and able to be managed with prescription medications or even over-the-counter pain medications like Motrin or Tylenol. 

3. Are dental implants expensive?

Cost is a big worry for many patients. As with any major oral surgery, dental implants are not inexpensive, but there are often financing options available. 

Our practice, for instance, uses a service called Compassionate Finance, which is a helpful financing option based on installment payments. A customized payment plan that works with your budget and dental needs can take a lot of strain off the financial aspect of getting dental implants. 

Check with your dentist to see what options they offer for payment, and if they can work with your insurance company. If you're uninsured, ask if they offer a third party option like Compassionate Finance.

4. What if I’m embarrassed by the condition of my teeth?

Patients sometimes worry about the personal dental history that has led them to lose teeth or need dental implants. It can be embarrassing to sit in a dentist's chair and confess that you haven't had the opportunity for dental care, or that you have neglected your teeth to get to this point. 

Don't let worries like that get in the way of taking steps to fix your dental problems. The best way to overcome a bad history with dental care is to start taking good care of your teeth now. When you're missing teeth, getting replacements for them is really important for both your smile and your health, while continued neglect can make matters worse as surrounding teeth shift into the gap of a missing tooth. 

At their core, dentists are compassionate people who want to help others achieve better oral health. There’s no reason to fear judgement from a qualified implant professional and there certainly won't be any reason for embarrassment about your beautiful new teeth once the implant process is finished.

5. How successful is dental implant treatment?

It's common for patients to worry about the success rate of dental implants. That's reasonable because, it's a big deal.  Treatment would be a lot to go through if there was a low chance of success. Luckily, those worries are unfounded. Dental implants have one of the highest success rates of any dental procedure, at over 95%. Most people will have excellent, permanent, results from their dental implants.

Failures are extremely unlikely, and usually happen only when a patient has significant challenges to oral surgery, Uncontrolled diabetes or heart disease, being a heavy smoker, or having had radiation therapy in the head or neck area are all important issues to discuss with your dentist and may affect your treatment options. 

Patients also can help improve their chances of success with dental implants with a commitment to good dental hygiene. Just like real teeth, implants need to be brushed and flossed well, and require regular check-ups with your dentist. 

Handling dental anxiety

Having anxiety about dental work is a common problem for many people, but fortunately, there are lots of things both you, and your dentist can do to ease anxiety during the process of getting dental treatment done. If you’re particularly nervous about treatment, or have extensive needs, sedation dentistry is an excellent option. Sedation dentistry offers anxious patients a few different methods of sedation during stressful procedures, such as oral conscious sedation, nitrous oxide, or a combination of both. Anti-anxiety medications also work well to reduce immediate stress. 

It's always a good idea to talk through your concerns with your dentist before any treatment. It's beneficial to make your dentist aware of your anxiety ahead of time, so she or he can address any worries and offer solutions that fit your individual health needs.

Dental implants will look and feel just like your natural teeth, and can improve your quality of life. Implants can stabilize your bite, which can shift due to missing teeth; they can give you back a younger facial structure; and they help prevent jawbone deterioration that's common after losing teeth. With all of these benefits, don't let dental anxiety stop you from taking action to improve your oral health and improve your smile. A qualified AAID dentist can help you achieve better oral health painlessly, affordably, and anxiety-free with dental implants.

This article was written by Ryan Lehr, DDS of Monterey Peninsula Dental Group.

Dr. Ryan Lehr, D.D.S., received his degree from Creighton University School of Dentistry. Dr. Lehr has clinical experience in diagnosis and treatment planning, preventative care, as well as restorative and prosthodontic dentistry. Dr. Lehr believes the responsibility of a dentist is to educate and guide patients so they can make their own decisions on oral health care. When recommending treatment options, Dr. Lehr explains the how and why, ensuring each patient gains a comprehensive understanding of his or her dental health needs. In all aspects of patient care, Dr. Lehr is attentive to detail: he has an innate sense of aesthetics and artistry that he brings to each procedure. A Monterey native, Dr. Lehr completed B.S. in Finance at Santa Clara University before heading to work on the trading floors in New York City and in private banking in San Francisco. Dr. Lehr then decided to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a dentist. Dr. Lehr enjoys furthering his education in dentistry and considers himself a lifelong student of the profession.

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Topics: Getting started with dental implants, dental implant process, Dental implant procedure, Dental anxiety