Fear-free dentistry helps those with dental phobia

- The fact 31-year old Laura Schindler is nonchalantly reading a magazine in dentist's office feels like a minor miracle to her. Because for years, the idea of coming to the dental panicked her.

"Just the thought of getting my cavity filled was so terrifying to me," Schindler says.

Even a dental cleaning was too much.

"I hate the sound of the drill and the little thing they use to pick your teeth," she explains.

So, for years, Schindler didn't go to the dentist, even though she knew she had cavities. Finally, she felt she had no other option.

"I had some serious tooth pain in multiple teeth," the Atlanta grad student says.

Then, about two years ago, Schindler's husband found Dr. Shawn Lottier of Comfort Smiles Atlanta.

He specializes in "sedation dentistry," treating patients with dental phobia.

"And a lot of it will go back to childhood," Dr. Lottier says. "A lot of patients have had bad experiences. There might have been a dentist who didn't use enough local anesthetic, and that just stays in their mind. So with sedation dentistry, the anxiety is gone, and we also get retrograde amnesia."

The first time Schindler came to see Dr. Lottier, she cried.

"She was so nervous. that I couldn't even do an oral exam," Lottier says.  "Like, the mirror made her afraid."

Dr. Lottier used IV sedation, so Schindler wouldn't feel or remember her procedure.

"And by sedating her, we saved the tooth," he says.  "So, the tooth didn't have to get a root canal and didn't have to be removed or distracted."

Lottier's practice charged between $400 and $600 an hour for IV sedation, in addition to the procedure itself. Schindler initially needed 3 two-hour procedures, which added about $800 per appointment. It made the impossible, possible.

"You're not hearing the drilling, you're not engaged in the process," Schindler says.  "You're just really comforted. And then, after it's done, it's over."

Laura Schindler is still nervous about going to the dentist. But, the fear no longer controls her.  And that, she says, feels pretty amazing.

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