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Dentists can be fun

From virtual reality eyeglasses to soothing New Age CDs, dentists have all sorts of ‘new toys’ to keep your mind off your mouth.

Dr. Philips in the News…

Ed Trelford remembers all too vividly his early dental experiences during World War 11 when he had several teeth extracted without anesthetic.

“The pain was horrific and nobody gave a damn,” he recalls with perfect clarity.

So on his latest visit to his North York dentist, Trelford, 69, was particularly bemused and delighted to discover he could spend his visit wrapped in a form of virtual reality glasses watching a film about eagles.

The dentist froze the appropriate area inside Trelford’s mouth and installed a new crown. Sincere assistants hovered and helped, asking Trelford if everything was to his liking. Trelford spent the hour bird-watching.

“It was really most interesting and I learned all sorts of things about eagles,” the Orillia resident says. “I was quite taken with it I never gave a thought to what they were doing to my tooth and it sure beat sitting there mindlessly waiting for the procedure to be finished.

“I like it when the dentists bring out their new toys.”

Many Metro-area dentists are introducing various high-tech “new toys” to help patients relax and forget their dental troubles and anxieties. Some dentists have televisions or visual games hanging from the ceiling. Others give out headsets and a choice of musical selections. A few have taken up the new kind of glasses Trelford used, which show films on a tiny screen in front of the right eye.

One dentist even offers electronic goggles that use the combination of a light show and musical interlude punctuated by beeps to induce a kind of meditative trance in the patient.

Some U.S. dentists offer patients the chance to play computer games hooked up to headsets while their molars are mended and word is that future dental developments will include the laser drill and a dental chair with built-in massager.

While there are no specific Canadian studies on the subject, American research suggests 40 per cent of people won’t go to the dentist unless they are in pain and 10 per cent wouldn’t go to a dentist no matter what Studies clearly show that older people are considerably more dental phobic than younger folks.

People now in their 40s and older sometimes have nightmarish childhood memories of more primitive treatments from the days of very low-tech dentistry.

Children of the last 20 years, growing up in the days of fluoridated water and tooth sealants, have no idea why their parents and grandparents associate dentists with chilling early experiences of drilling, filling and yanking, sometimes without anesthetic.

Some people are afraid of having trouble breathing in the dentist’s chair. Others feel claustrophobic or helpless. Some are afraid of nausea and those prone to dizziness can fear having it triggered by the motion of the chair or by their position.

A 1988 Canadian Dental Association poll showed that 42 per cent of people still associate a visit to the dentist with pain, although their number is shrinking and their fears are not necessarily founded in fact.

But one of the most powerful elements in dental aversion is a sense that the whole experience is a form of human indignity that makes the patient feel like a hapless cartoon character.

“They’re up in the air with their legs

Just wanna be loved by you…

Dentists just want to be loved.

“The media often present dentists as sadistic, uncaring people just interested in getting the job done – the Little Shop of Horrors kind of thing,” complains North York dentist Ron Weintraub.

“That’s the exact opposite of the truth. You need to present the helping, caring side of dentistry.

“Your dentist is a surgeon, a radiologist, an anesthetist, a cosmetician: there’s a great dogree of difficulty to the work. It’s a very demanding profession. But you will find that it is very important to the dentist to offer information and comfort to the patient”

Weintraub says some patients want to be participants in the treatment, to be kept abreast of each detail and to make decisions about aspects of the treatment He offers these people educational videos on everything from root canal to gum disease and the opportunity to watch their treatment on a screen, thanks to a mini-camera.

“Other people say: ‘Please don’t show me anything, just do what you have to do then I’ll leave,” Weintraub notes.

“We find out from the patients what their needs are, then we focus on the needs of the individual patient”

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