I’m afraid that my wife may be using sedation dentistry as a crutch. I don’t really blame her for wanting to have the meds, but it throws us into a bit of chaos every time she needs to have dental work done. Without going too much into detail, her childhood dentist was pretty brutal. He left her with an intense fear of the dentist. Her teeth looked fine when I met her, but as the years went by, they deteriorated quite a bit and she refused to see a dentist. We found a sedation dentist to help her and I will say that she has been a godsend. We made it through the series of appointments necessary to get her smiling again and life is good.
However, every time something comes up now- even if it’s a tiny cavity being filled- she asks for oral conscious sedation (OCS). We’ve got a good relationship with this doctor and my wife seems to trust her, but it’s hard for me to take the day off work just because my wife needs a filling. Plus, our insurance doesn’t cover it, so you know who’s paying for it- me. I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but it seems like this has gone on long enough. At some point, she should be able to go without the meds, right? At what point can I safely interrupt this trend and tell her to be mature about this?
This is a particularly interesting question with no definitive answer. However, we can explain what might be happening.
Any Kind of Trauma Can Leave Lasting Emotional Scars
We don’t know what happened specifically with your wife, but trauma of any kind can have a lasting impact on a person. For example, a child who is ridiculed in school may begin to think that school is a bad place where he or she does not belong. The child will associate learning with ridicule and have trouble excelling. A child who is beaten by a parent learns to avoid their parent and often avoids relationships later in life as a result. Some children never learn how to form close bonds with others.
A person who witnesses a violent event, such as a shooting, may also develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They can become hypervigilant and anxious and be unable to return to the place where the event happened. Or they might be constantly on alert waiting for it to happen again. These people can often muddle through life without treating the underlying problem, but their quality of life diminishes. For example, the bullied child may never finish school. The abused child may never have a healthy relationship. The crime witness may withdraw from the things he or she loves.
The Right Way to Address Trauma Varies
The field of mental healthcare is filled with many different methods to help people overcome trauma so they can live healthy and full lives. Arguably, the most well-known is talk therapy. There are also other avenues a licensed mental/ behavioral healthcare professional might try, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), coaching, and teaching the person healthy coping mechanisms. We don’t know the level of distress you wife feels or how deep it goes, so it’s difficult to say what type of therapy she needs.
A Sedation Dentist Can Help Reduce Anxiety, Now and Forever
For some, dental anxiety doesn’t go away without some kind of care from a mental health specialist. Choosing OCS or a similar variant is a crutch in some cases, but if it empowers them to get the care they need, it’s worthwhile. For others, the extra care afforded by a sedation dentist lets them build positive memories with their dental care team. In time, with lots of positive experiences, your wife’s prior experiences may diminish so much that she sees the treatment as a positive and enjoyable thing. However, all this is probably happening in her subconscious. Even if she trusts her doctor and knows the office is safe, she’s already been conditioned to be fearful. There is no timeline or formula that flips a switch and allows her to not have anxiety.
In short, there is no right time to take control and insist your wife has dental appointments without sedation. She’s not doing anything wrong and if she’s anxious, she’s likely unable to control it. While there is no harm in having an open discussion with her about how she feels about treatment without the medication, it’s best not to insist on it. If anxiety seeps into other areas of her life, it may be worthwhile for her to talk to a mental health professional and start dealing with some of the underlying causes. If it’s purely dental anxiety, please respect it. Your support will make a world of difference in her confidence and willingness to continue with getting treatment.
This blog is sponsored by Plano sedation dentist Dr. Miranda Lacy.