Fear of the dentist is a common among the non-dental population, it is something that we confront and work with on a daily basis. Having come to expect that certain patients may be truly afraid of making an appointment to have a root canal has made us better equipped to deal with these fears.
I have heard somewhere along the line that patients have 3 major fears about going to the dentist: time, money, and pain. Let’s look at each of these separately.
Let’s face it – we all lead busy lives and no one is able to predict when a toothache is going to occur that may be a warning that a root canal is needed. Acute tooth pain usually strikes at the most in opportune time – the middle of the night, the day before a trip out of town, etc. Tooth pain does not have an alarm clock and it does not care what you may have planned for that day. When pain occurs, most people need to get it dealt with immediately.
As endodontic specialists here in Phoenix, AZ, Allen Endodontic Group always expects to handle emergency patients and we adjust our daily schedule accordingly. By providing the necessary communication and information, we are able to effectively manage our patients expectations as it relates to any time they may spend waiting to see one of our specialists.
Additionally, our patient reception areas are equipped with HD cable televisions and guest wi-fi, so if our patients have to wait to see us, they can pass the time productively.
I think this fear effects all of us. I have yet to meet a patient who was excited about the opportunity to lay out cash for unexpected dental expenses. On top of that, many times the prognosis for the tooth may be guarded so there is no guarantee that the root canal will work on a long term basis. Don’t be fooled into thinking that having dental insurance is going to cover all of a patient’s dental expenses – that is not the case.
In a future post, I will go into detail about dental insurance coverage but I will summarize here by saying that in the last 40 years the cost of supplies, labor, technology in dentistry have risen exponentially, the corresponding level of coverage by dental insurance companies has not changed at all. $1,500 per year is a pretty good plan by today’s standards, but that will cover a root canal or a crown, not both. And pretty much all dental insurance plans limit a patient to two covered exams per year. You are all set as long as you don’t have more than one dental issue in a given year.
The bottom line is that dental insurance or not, a patient will face out of pocket costs for any unplanned dental work.
Of the three fears mentioned, fear of pain is by far the most complex because it manifests itself differently in each patient. Front staff often times takes note when patients don’t seem to be to be “themselves.” A patient may not have all of their information or seem a little disorganized. The key is not to take any of it personally and realize 1) your patient really does NOT want to be in your office and 2) they are acting that way because they are genuinely afraid of what they see as the pain that may be involved with a root canal procedure.
Although modern dentistry has evolved to the point where most procedures are indeed pain-free, we do not take lightly or dismiss any fear our patients may express or have. We are trained to spot the warning signs and take steps to make patients as comfortable as possible given the situation. Like the topic of dental insurance mentioned above, I will explore the complexities of fear of pain in future posts.
Any one who grew up in the 1960’s and had dental treatment as a child probably experiences negative memories of their dental visits – I am one of those people. We all know the internet is the “Wild, Wild West” of information – today we all can be “experts” on any give topic – Well much of the information out there regarding root canals and endodontics is simply wrong. Patients need to get their questions answered by professionals trained to answer them – not Wikipedia.
So whether its an old memory or Aunt Marva relating how much pain her root canal put her in, the fear patients have is real and something we are all trained to deal with.
So folks, if you are in Phoenix, Paradise Valley or Scottsdale Arizona and you need a root canal – give us a call. We promise 1) not to hurt you, 2) minimize any time you have to wait and 3) make paying for your treatment as easy for you as we can.