However, there is an alternative relaxation method that could bring people back to the chair. An unusual technique is being tested by some dentists that promises to ease anxiety and calm the brain naturally so patients can sit through a procedure without feeling sick with fear.
It may be the drill or the sight of the needle. Or it might be the pain. Whatever the trigger, dental anxiety is real.
"I'm always worried is he going to hit a nerve and the Novocain isn't going to work," said dental patient Laura Morse.
Morse has spent a lot of time at the dentist. Until today, she fought the fear on her own.
"I'm always clenching my hands you know right in my lap," said Morse.
A new kind of relaxation technique, Comfort Centered Care, hopes to address these anxieties. Dentist Peter Harnois believes it's going to revolutionize the field of dentistry.
"A drug free, side effect free natural process that they can walk away from feeling refreshed and rejuvenated," said Peter Harnois, DDS.
It works in three phases. First, the patient takes something which helps induce a calming effect called Gamma Amino Butyramino Butyricaba and ltheanine. Both are naturally occurring compounds found in the brain.
Then it's time for step two. The Cranial Electrostimulation Device or CES. It's been around for decades and is already FDA approved to treat anxiety. It delivers a very light electric current.
"It powers about one millionth of an amp through the brain opening up the receptors saying there's gaba present, lock and key, let's start relaxing," said James Poole, CEO Solace Solutions.
Step three is music mixed with special frequencies designed to move brainwaves into a pattern similar to what happens before we fall asleep. Finally, the patient puts on dark glasses to block out visual stimulation.
"You don't fall asleep but you get in state that you are so relaxed there is no more fear and anxiety. It takes us about seven to ten minutes to get to that level," said Poole.
UIC Health psychlogist Sheela Raja said even simple distraction techniques from TVs to music can work wonders in the dental chair.
"Get a morning appointment it will keep stress from building throughout the day and above all let the dentist know your fears," said Raja.
She warns no one technique will work for everyone but researchers are still looking
"I think we are at an exciting time right now in terms of brain research and leaning more about the relaxation response and it's relationship to brain chemistry," said Sheela Raja, University of Illinois Medicine Center at Chicago.
Through the drilling and suctioning Laura seemed at peace. Dr. Hanois will work for the company training others how to use this technique. He says getting patients this relaxed also makes treatment easier and faster.
"No more nitrous oxide, no more Valium, no more conscious sedation," said Hanois.
This will not eliminate the needle or anesteics but could make the whole experience less traumatic.
"I feel very relaxed more so than I thought I would," said Morse.
There are only a few dentist's using this comfort centered care technique because it is so new. the makers are also looking into using this to treat people with other anxiety disorders.
Solace Solutions, LLC
Peter Harnois, DDS
Harnois Peter DDS PC
522 Chestnut Street Suite 2A
Hinsdale, IL 60521 Phone: (630) 323-4468