Research has demonstrated that fear increases the response of pain receptors. The fear of dentistry is so strong that about 47% of the population does not go to a dentist on a regular basis. The “Catch 22” is that seeing a dentist regularly is the best way to avoid dental pain. Unmanaged small problems often become big problems that may come with accompanying pain before you can even get into see the dentist.
Reducing anxiety is the first step to painless dentistry. The oldest, simplest, safest, and one of the least expensive reducers of fear is nitrous oxide (laughing gas). The gas is rapidly absorbed into the blood stream in minutes and is released just as quickly so that the patient is able to drive immediately after the appointment with no ill effects. The experience is relaxing and pleasant (at high enough levels some people can get a little giddy), but it is this relaxation that helps achieve our goal of painless dentistry. The next method to reduce dental anxiety is the use of oral sedatives. It works well, but in this case a consideration is that the patient must be driven to and from the appointment because of the longer acting medications involved. The last method (usually done in extreme situations only) would be general anesthesia or “going to sleep”. This is expensive, it carries a higher risk, and ideally should be performed by a licensed anesthesiologist while your dentist does the dentistry.
If you avoid the dentist because of fear of pain, make an appointment to talk with a dentist about your fears and to discuss these options.