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Arfraid of the Dentist? Here's What You Should Expect

Fearing the dentist is a common experience. Dr. Alin Alkass finds that there are two main reasons for this fear. The first and most obvious is fear of discomfort. The second, less often addressed fear, is fear of embarrassment.

Many people avoid dental visits for fear that the dentist is sure to be horrified by the condition of their teeth, and sure to humiliate, scold or lecture them. For many, this fear is as powerful as the fear of physical discomfort. It keeps people out of the dentist chair, sometimes for years. Lack of dental care causes their oral health to decline, which makes them even more ashamed, and even more reluctant to go in, creating a vicious cycle.

There's good news for embarrassed patients: The days of stern, authoritarian dentists are largely gone. Most of today's dentists are centered on ensuring that their patients have as comfortable and pleasant an experience as possible. Good dentists want potential patients to know that there's absolutely nothing—from yellow teeth, to black teeth, to no teeth—that they haven't seen, and no dental problem so dire that it can't be addressed.

Wherever you are in your dental care, your dentist will be happy that you reversed course and took the first step in making better choices. And if you do find a dentist that makes you feel ashamed or uncomfortable, walk out. There are many others who will be happy to give you quality, compassionate care.

Regular cleanings are key to good oral health. Dentists like Dr. Alin Alkass recommend that patients have their teeth cleaned every six months to help stave off gum disease and tooth decay. When undergoing a cleaning, the patient typically looks at the ceiling and waits for the hygienist’s instructions, unable to see what's actually going on. So what happens during a cleaning?

First, the dental hygienist uses a mirror to locate obvious plaque deposits on tooth surfaces, and a scaler to remove them. He or she may go up into your gums and tug at plaque between your teeth, which can cause a bit of discomfort. Rather than have you "rinse and spit," the hygienist will use a special tool to rinse away the plaque and any blood and saliva and then suction it away.

If the hygienist finds any chips or breaks on the surface of your teeth, he or she may use dental burrs to fill them in. If the patient is a child, the hygienist may seal the molars to protect them from debris and make cavities less likely.

After examining, scaling and touching up your teeth, the hygienist will brush and floss them, apply a fluoride treatment, then gently polish them with a slow-speed polisher. The dentist will then come in to examine your teeth to check for signs of decay and other issues. The whole process typically takes only 30 to 45 minutes. While not always comfortable, Dr. Alin Alkass asserts that the procedure should be pretty painless.