How do I help my husband overcome his dental anxiety? He’s always been afraid of the dentist. Mostly that’s because it was an unknown to him. His parents never took him to the dentist when he was a child. I finally convinced him to go, just once to see what it was like. He did go, but it turned out he needed a lot of work. Plus, his gums were very tender so it was a painful experience for him. The dentist quoted him thousands of dollars of work. I’m afraid he’s going to use finances as an excuse not to go, but in reality, he just didn’t like how it felt. How can I help him?
Let me assure you your husband is not alone in his anxiety, both in being in the dental chair as well as financial considerations. That knowledge alone may help him not feel so isolated or “cowardly” about the dentist. Let me give you some ideas which may help your husband.
Solutions to Financial Anxiety & Dental Care
Those who’ve not gone to the dentist in many years often find they need more work than they can afford. Because of that, they feel hopeless. If they can’t afford to fix everything right away, what’s the point?
First, he needs to be convinced that going to the dentist is important. You didn’t mention what specific work he needed. For the moment, let’s assume it’s all just cavities, which is one of the least invasive procedures. If he does nothing except brush and floss diligently (which are important), the cavities will continue to grow. Eventually, they’ll reach the pulp of the tooth. This always comes with the accompanying gifts of throbbing pain and infection.
Now, instead of needing a much simpler and relatively pain-free procedure, such as a white filling, they now need the more expensive and invasive procedure of a root canal and dental crown. But, let’s assume from there, his anxiety about the dentist strengthens his resolve to ignore the pain, which by then would be quite significant. Infections spread. With dental care, taking an antibiotic isn’t a solution. It’s just a temporary stop-gap. The infection will return and continue until it is physically removed by the dentist. Our jaws are in close proximity to our heart and brain. If the infection spreads (and it will), it can become deadly quickly. Believe it or not, people are still dying from untreated cavities.
Understanding it’s important and being able to afford it are two different things. So what strategies will help him get that covered financially? The first step is to have his dentist list out all the work he needs in order of most urgent to least urgent. Then he can do his work in phases that work for him and can get the non-urgent work done in a timetable he can afford.
But what if he needs more urgent work than he has income to cover? You don’t want to leave those and have them turn into a dental emergency. Talk to the dentist about setting up a payment plan that enables him to get the work first and pay it out slowly. Some dentists say in their financial policies that payment is expected up front. That doesn’t mean in some circumstances they wouldn’t work with you. Always ask. Worst case scenario, they say no payment plans. No harm done. If that does happen, there’s still another option.
Care credit is a medical credit card. It works in a more customer friendly way than traditional credit card companies. First, you can set your terms. There are low and even no-interest payment plan options. Plus, if you get a windfall, there is no penalty for paying the card off early. It’s designed to help families get medical care they couldn’t otherwise afford.
Solutions to Dental Anxiety
Let’s say all the financial issues are covered but he’s still resistant to going back to the dentist, how can you get him through the door? There are dentist’s who specifically cater to fearful patients. Do an internet search. They’ll commonly use the following terms—
- Sedation Dentist
- Cater to Cowards Dentist
- Gentle Dentist
The most helpful is usually when a dentist offers dental sedation, especially oral conscious sedation. This service relaxes the patient during the procedure. They’re still conscious and can respond to questions the dentist asks them, as well as move if they need to. However, they’re so relaxed most patients sleep throughout the procedure.
The benefits are they’re completely relaxed, the appointment can be pain-free, and they can get more work done per appointment. That last point is extraordinarily useful to patients who need a lot of work done. The downside is he’ll be so relaxed that he won’t be too steady on his feet. He’ll need someone to drive him to and from the appointment as well as stay with him throughout the day until they’re sure the sedation has worn off.
This blog is brought to you by Kalamazoo cosmetic dentist Dr. Susan Dennis.