This is not the most cheerful of ways to start a relationship with a patient. But, honestly, I get it. Dentistry is literally in your face. It’s a very personal experience. And the mouth is highly sensitive (as represented by the bizarre little man of the sensory homunculus), i.e., the mouth has about a gazillion nerve endings. Dentistry at best is uncomfortable. At worst it is a horribly painful and emotionally traumatic experience. I get it. I don’t even like going to the dentist.
It could be worse, however. It has definitely been worse in the past. I can hardly imagine a dental procedure without being numbed by local anesthetic, and yet local anesthetic has only been in common use since the 1950s. For thousands of years mankind has suffered from dental problems and crude treatments without being numbed. Your parents may remember a time when they could feel everything being done during a dental appointment.
Modern dentistry is miraculous by comparison. Every conceivable comfort has been employed to make dentistry as pleasant as possible. Better local anesthetic techniques, movies and music to distract, massaging dental chairs, and even sedation to distract the mind all combine to make dentistry a more pleasant experience. It also helps if your dentist is friendly and empathetic.
The best part of dentistry is socializing with patients. I really enjoy chatting and getting to know my patients. It’s like catching up with a good friend, and eventually we’ll get around to doing some dental work.
As a dentist I approach each procedure with caution and respect. I have to tread lightly around those gazillion nerves to 1) not cause pain, and 2) not emotionally offend the person attached to those sensitive nerves. A root canal, which used to have an awful reputation, can now be done in the most mundane way.
The materials used in modern dentistry fascinate me. A simple filling is a wonder. Think of it–in a short appointment I can replace a cavity with a filling material that will stand up to saliva, bacteria, and daily chewing for years.
The porcelain used for crowns is stronger than ever to resist chewing and grinding without breaking. It is more realistic than ever, and to my eyes–even beautiful.
Dental implants are an incredible technology. Living, changing bone will heal intimately around a man-made titanium implant, giving it strength and stability. It’s the only root replacement dentistry has to offer, and it opens many options for those who want to keep their mouths healthy and functional after losing teeth.
My father has practiced dentistry for 45 years. He calls it “building little monuments in people’s mouths.”
From digital x-rays to incredibly detailed impressions and prescription mouthwashes, I’m wondering–is there anything modern dentistry can’t do for you?
I understand trepidation related to dental care. Many dental patients “had a bad dental experience as a kid,” and have been anxious about dentistry ever since. I believe modern dentistry can live up to the demands of gentle care and a positive dental experience.