Article written by: Dr Mitchell Innes

Dental care has evolved at an outstanding rate over the past years, to a point where it would be almost unrecognisable to my bygone colleagues. We in the profession nowadays have a great focus on the provision of what is known as ‘preventative dentistry' - striving to conserve your natural tooth structure and gums. In the past, however, teeth were often filled or extracted to prevent significant problems because of the limited resources and treatments the dentists had available or could perform.

A very unfortunate side effect of this past era of dental care is the impact it had emotionally on often-young patients. Almost daily I hear stories of "they didn't use anaesthetic", "a nurse had to hold me down", "the dentist didn't stop even
though I told him it was hurting" and I could go on. These stories, and the very upset patients who tell them, struck a cord with me very early in my career and since then I've had a lot of time for patients suffering dental phobia.

"I have helped patients minimise their dental anxiety, as well as improving their oral and general health."

I will now share a story about one such patient named Sharon. Last year Sharon presented to my practice with a complaint of teeth sensitivity to hot and cold. My front office coordinator came to my room and informed me that Sharon was seated in the patient lounge and was visibly shaking. I walked out to Sharon, introduced myself, and sat beside her while she told me her upsetting dental history. It involved a couple of traumatic appointments as a nine-year-old having an adult tooth removed. This led to one of the most severe dental phobias I had seen, with a 25-year hiatus from the dentist, including three months of walking past the practice before having the courage to make an appointment.

Towards the end of the one-hour appointment I asked Sharon to walk to the surgery for a tour and she did. Sharon sat in the dental chair and, after a few minutes, allowed me to examine the sensitive area. Unfortunately her long-term avoidance of the dentist had led to mild gum disease with exposed tooth root surfaces. Since that day Sharon has become a model patient with great oral hygiene and no further treatment is planned at this stage. Sharon was very lucky, as I generally see more pronounced oral diseases after such a long gap between dental visits.

This scenario is commonplace for me and is very rewarding professionally, knowing that I have helped patients minimise their dental anxiety, as well as improving their oral and general health. I have a special interest in oral rehabilitation, including aesthetic dentistry, and have recently moved back to North Queensland to work with my mate and colleague Dr Matthew Casey. Please contact Casey Dentists on 4725 3324 to arrange an appointment with me, Dr Mitchell Innes.

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