I Was Never Afraid of Anything

I was never afraid of anything in the world except the dentist.

  -Taylor Caldwell (and Helen Scott) 

His name was Dr. Butler and he wore a short light blue tunic. His office was above a shop in the neighboring town center. It required climbing up narrow stairs that moaned in mourning at every step taken, and the closer to the summit came the undeniable smell that overwhelms your senses; the Dentist.

Most of my memories of visits to Dr. Butler have been lost in the mists of time. I do, however, have three distinct images from the past, whose fingers stretch out and influence me even to this day.

I was 10, and showing off in the changing room of the local swimming pool on a Saturday afternoon. I slipped falling face down onto the concrete floor smashing my two front teeth. I do not have memories of how I got home, or even if I changed out of my swimming costume. I do recall sitting on the stairs at home, holding a hankie to my mouth to ease the pain of air passing over my lips, listening to my parents ringing around desperately trying to find a dentist that would see me on a Saturday evening.

What did it take for you to get a day off school? For me it was death’s door. So, when I needed some teeth extracted prior to orthodontic treatment and the appointment was in the afternoon, I was, of course, going to school that morning. I have no idea what the exact instructions were, but, I do know that it was drilled, excuse the pun, into me that I could not drink after a certain time. Literally, 5 minutes prior to that deadline I was standing by the water fountain in the playground of Thomas Harding Middle School, taking that last swallow of the warm unrefreshing bounty, whether I was thirsty or not.

I needed a filling, my first, unfortunately not my last. Due to my parents work schedule and even though I was no more than 12 years old, I was making my own way to see Dr. Butler. I do not recall if I was given a local anesthetic, but I do have the memory etched into my core of it hurting.

I know some people actually like going to the hygienist. They love the feel of their teeth being professionally cleaned. Not me, even the thought of going to the dentist breaks me out in a cold sweat; between you and me I have even been known to shed a tear or two.

Unlike many people who have a dental phobia, it is not the local injection that concerns me, although I am certainly aware if it, I see it as a necessary evil. I find that even with the local, I still have feeling in my teeth while the dentist is working. I share this not for your sympathy, but, because I want it known that even though I have worked in dentistry for 35 years, I am still a patient when I sit in the dental chair, with the same fears and unease as anyone else. I understand that patients carry their own anxieties and I hope to reassure and ease those worries. Part of this is the ability to offer safe options when it comes to making the surgery more comfortable.

Nitrous Oxide, laughing gas, is a great safe choice, if like me, you are uneasy about surgery, but, have to find your own way home. Nitrous is given through a mask that fits just over your nose. It is odorless, however the masks that are used do have a scent, color dependent the smell could be vanilla, mint, strawberry or orange. The whole purpose with nitrous is to relax you, it is not designed to make you fall asleep. After the procedure has been completed 100% oxygen is supplied through the mask which soon clears any effect of the nitrous from your body, leaving you perfectly safe to drive home.

Any other method available to relax the body and mind does require an adult to bring you, drive you home and look after you for the remainder of the day.

When I needed an extraction recently, you know I was not going to let anyone but Dr. Patty do it, but even with that utter trust and confidence in him I still decided to add a tablet to my usual choice of nitrous. I was able to eat and took the tablet about 1 hour before my appointment. The tablet thoroughly relaxed me and although I was not asleep and was able to communicate fully with Dr. Patty and Sallie, I was not at all concerned about what was being done.

I understand that for some people even this is not an option, whether it is because their unease is greater or sometimes the surgeon may suggest that a light anesthetic would be the most comfortable way to have the work completed.

We are very serious about the safety of our patients and we do everything we can to make sure that everyone is kept protected during all procedures, especially when we are administering anesthesia. Union Oral Surgery and Dental Implant Center is set up to mirror the care and attention you would receive in a hospital setting.

We will ask our patients to have NOTHING to eat or drink for 6 hours prior to the appointment. We need your stomach to be completely empty. This is very important because anything that is in the stomach at the time aesthesia is given could be aspirated into the lungs, which is a fancy way of saying if you vomit it could be breathed into your lungs, which would mean a trip to the hospital and the possibility of damaging the lungs and, or causing an infection.

We will always place monitors on our patients who will be sleeping through their treatment. Those include ones that listen to you breathing, that document how well your heart is beating, that your blood pressure is stable and one that checks you have plenty of oxygen in your body.

All assistants are compelled to hold a current Dental Assistants Anesthesia National Certificate Examination. This is a comprehensive course and examination that covers all aspects of the administration of anesthesia to dental patients. All staff at Union Oral Surgery and Dental Implant Center are CPR certified. Both Dr. Patty and Dr. Barzyk are certified to administer anesthesia to patients, we also have a medical doctor on staff who is an anesthesiologist and is always available to our patients at no additional cost.

Unfortunately sensational headlines sell stories, it is always difficult to hear about tragic accidents that occur in medical or dental offices, but it really is important to remember that these are fortunately the exception to the rule and here at Union Oral Surgery we do not take the safety of our patients for granted.

Our doctors are always happy to answer any questions and would encourage you to ask as many as you need to keep your mind at ease.