Local dentists name their 123 picks for the best practitioners in the state. Plus: tips on making your dentist visit more blissful, what it really means to get wired, and the skinny on making your smile sparkle.
Illustrations by Jesse Lefkowitz
No More Excuses
The right dentist can help ease your fears.
So many of our fears are provoked by false alarms, and dentists’ offices are ripe with sights, smells and sounds that trigger old anxieties. Sure, when you were a kid, the whine of a dentist’s drill or the sight of a needle seemed threatening enough. If your earliest memories of seeing a dentist are sour, maybe your nerves flare every time the smell of spearmint hits you when you walk into the office. Whatever the source of your dental anxiety, rest assured that you’re not alone — a recent survey by the British Dental Health Foundation found that people fear going to the dentist more than spiders, snakes and hospital visits.
It’s tempting, but you can’t put off going to the dentist forever. So what’s a timid patient to do?
Start by finding the right dentist and office environment for you, says Lena D. Karkalas, a Providence dentist who specializes in “spa dentistry” that’s designed to help patients relax and, dare we say, enjoy their dental visit. Her office features televisions in every room and massage pads on each dental chair. Depending on appointment length, patients — who are greeted with coffee, tea or water — can request a warm or cold neck wrap, a natural oil hand treatment and an eye wrap. Karkalas has even taken care of that “dentist office smell” with candle warmers throughout the office.
Helping anxious patients relax, however, is about more than just atmosphere, she says.
“The most important thing about controlling anxiety for dental patients is to be comfortable with your doctor and discuss your concerns,” she says, adding that her patients include children and adults. “You should never stay in a dental office where you don’t feel comfortable.”
For some people, dental fears reach way beyond simple relaxation techniques like deep breathing, visualizing positive images, listening to music or even talk therapy. Those patients might want to consider sedation, says dentist Farhad Akhtari of Oaklawn Family Dental Associates in Warwick.
In his practice, anxious adult patients can choose “conscious sedation,” a medication process that allows patients to breathe on their own and respond to verbal commands. Medication given before and during the appointment lets them skip the pain and discomfort, often reducing memories of their dental procedures.
Typically, he says, patients are given Valium the night before their appointment to help them relax. Then, one hour before their appointment, they take a dose of triazolam. A companion brings them to their appointment, where they are connected to a device that monitors blood pressure, pulse and oxygen saturation. A second dose of triazolam is given at the appointment.
“These are long appointments, typically three to four hours,” Akhtari says. “Many patients choose to do as much dental work as possible in this comfortable setting.”
If sedation sounds like the perfect solution to your dental fears, know that it doesn’t come cheap. The sedation visit is typically not covered by insurance, Akhtari says, and patients might expect to pay on average $400, depending on their situation.
The good news, he says, is that while many adult patients come into their initial consultation with tears in their eyes, after experiencing sedation dentistry, they sometimes decide they no longer need it for future appointments. “Instead, they choose to have dental work done with just TLC,” he says.
View a list of the Top Dentists as they appear in our July 2011 issue
View a slideshow of the Top Dentists Event at Audi Warwick