The distinctive sound in the dentist's office coupled with its slightly sweet antiseptic smell has long been a source of anxiety for many people. Ask almost anyone and they will tell you stories much like the one of my grandmother, who was never given treatment for her pain. Instead, she was treated only with silver nitrate on the decayed areas to deaden the nerve endings. However this did not heal the decay. Perhaps instead they would tell of a time when their dentist, who had just received his new high-speed drill, insisted that there was no need for Novocaine. Along with new problems such as dentists infecting their patients with HIV, the negative side of dentistry has increasingly been in the public eye.
Upon hearing stories similar to these, the public has been calling for their dental visits to become safe, painless, and carefree ones. In a study done by USA Today (1999), it was found that "dentists are trying to coax forty million frightened Americans back into the [dentist's] chair" (p. 1). Of these forty million persons, many of them are so afraid of the dentist that they chronically schedule and postpone dental care until their level of pain is so high, they must go regardless of fear. Forty million Americans are not wrong. There is a serious problem with the way they have been, or are being treated in the dentist's chair. While there are many very good compassionate dentists in the United States, there are a number of dentists whose philosophy is to "treat only the tooth and make their money" (Dr. Knight, personal conversation, March 28, 1999). Many dentists today are concerned with treating dental anxiety and there are three basic areas these dentists are improving to redu...
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