Tag Archives: dental anxiety

Painful Pimple on Gums

I’m hoping you can help me. I’ve had a tooth hurting for a bit. I didn’t see anything wrong with it so didn’t worry. Today, I noticed a pimple on my gum. It is throbbing and hurts like you wouldn’t believe. My doctor thinks it is a dental issue. What do I do about it if I don’t have a dentist?


Dear Craig,

Woman grabbing her jaw in need of an emergency dentist

What looks like a pimple on your gums is actually an abscess. This means your tooth is infected and the infection is spilling out. You should be aware this is a dental emergency. If it’s not dealt with the infection will spread and can turn life threatening. The tooth pain you’ve been feeling was very likely the infection making itself known. Sometimes, there can be no visible decay and you still have some. This is why dentists will do x-rays during your checkups in order to make sure there’s no decay taking place internally.

You’ll need to have a root canal treatment done in order to save your tooth. I realize you don’t have a dentist. Fortunately, there are dentists willing to see non-established patients in the case of dental emergencies. Most of them will even see you that day because of the seriousness of the issue.

Often after a root canal treatment a tooth will need a dental crown. This is to protect the tooth as they can become brittle after treatment. If you like the emergency dentist, you can schedule follow up treatment with him or her. If you don’t, then you can try another dentist.

The important thing is to get this infection dealt with right away. After that you’ll have some breathing room.

A Big Reason People Avoid the Dentist

Most patients avoid the dentist because of serious trauma with a dentist in the past. Usually that was the result of a painful appointment mixed with an insensitive dentist. If that’s you, I have great news for you.

There are dentists who cater to patients with bad experiences. Often, to help with your anxiety, they can even provide some form of dental sedation. If anxiety has kept you out of the dental chair, you may want to find a dentist who treats emergencies as well as offers sedation.

Many patients who previously avoided the dentist at all costs find this simple solution to change their life.

This blog is brought to you by Libertyville Dentist Dr. David Potts.

Is All Dental Sedation the Same?

I’m terrified of the dentist. However, this fear is ruining my life. I’ve been seeing a therapist and he suggested, at least in the short term to try sedation dentistry. He’s worried I’m getting infections because my mouth always hurts. We’re still working on my anxiety, but said this is more like an emergency and the sedation will handle the anxiety part for me for now. I looked it up and there seem to be a lot of different types. Given my personal situation, would one be better for me than the other?


Dear Rose,

A dentist standing behind a woman smiling in a dental chair
Those with dental anxiety CAN have pain-free care again.

You have a very wise therapist. He’s looking out for your mental and physical health. Pain is often a sign of an infection and is considered a dental emergency. Dental infections are different than medical ones. When you’re dealing with a medical infection you can take an antibiotic and almost always that’s enough.

With dental infections, however, if the infection kills the pulp of the tooth an antibiotic won’t help. There’s no longer blood flow to get in the infected part of the tooth. A dentist will have to physically remove the infected pulp. This is known as a root canal treatment.

If left untreated, the infection will continue to spread. If you think about how close your jaw is to your heart and brain, a dental emergency can quickly turn into a medical emergency. Even if it doesn’t, you will begin to lose teeth. If not from decay, then gum disesase. Your teeth will just start falling out.

Depressed yet?

Now for the Good News: Dental Sedation Can Change Your Life

With your high level of anxiety and the amount of work you are likely to need up front, my recommendation is you find a sedation dentist who offers Oral Conscious Sedation. It will be a game changer for you. All you’ll have to do the day of the appointment is take a simple pill. You can spend the rest of your appointment asleep if you want. In fact, most OCS patients end up sleeping through their appointment completely. Others prefer to stay awake but are completely relaxed and in no pain whatsoever.

There is some preparation needed ahead of time. First, you’ll need a consultation with your dentist to go over any medications you are currently taking. This is to ensure the dentist doesn’t give you anything which will have a reaction to something you already take.

You’ll also need to arrange for someone to drive you to and from your appointment as well as remain with you for a few hours after your appointment until you’re more lucid. This is for your physical safety.

I hope this brings you the peace of mind you need.
This blog is brought to you by Libertyville Dentist Dr. David Potts.

Why Is My Tooth Turning Gray?

I had a toothache that drove me to the dentist. It takes a lot to get me there. I don’t have my own dentist so I went to one who sees people in emergencies. He said my symptoms meant that I cracked a tooth. He crowned it right then which I appreciated. The pain did stop, but now the tooth next to it has turned gray. I don’t know why. Any advice?


Dear Loriee,

Woman grabbing her jaw in need of an emergency dentist

If a tooth has turned gray, means the tooth is either dead or dying. There are a few reasons why this could happen. One of the most common reasons is an infected tooth. Another possibility is there was trauma to the tooth. You didn’t mention whether you recalled any injury which could have cracked your tooth.

If you did, then it’s possible you had trauma to both teeth, but there were no outward symptoms with the tooth which turned gray. Truthfully, this is the most likely scenario.

Another possibility is the dentist diagnosed and crowned the wrong tooth. The only real way to know this with certainty is to take the x-rays you had at your emergency dental appointment and get a second opinion from another dentist. If it was obvious, then you can get a refund on the crown you were already given in order to have the funds you need for the crown you should have received.

Finally, (and I’ll be the first to admit this is unlikely) you had the first tooth injured which is cracked. Then, at a later date, the second tooth was damaged elsewhere and now is showing symptoms. No matter which is the actual cause, the treatment for this is the same. You’ll need to get a root canal treatment and have that tooth crowned as well.

An Alternative to Treatment by Dental Emergency

It sounds like your dental anxiety is keeping you from getting regular dental care. This will keep you going from one emergency dental appointment to another. There is a way to get your dental care without the anxiety you normally feel.

Have you looked into seeing a sedation dentist? They can give you stress-free/pain-free appointments. The two most common types of dental sedation are nitrous oxide and oral conscious sedation. Nitrous is mostly used for mild anxiety. If you have serious anxiety, you’ll want to look into oral conscious sedation. You can check out our sedation dentistry page to learn more.

This blog is brought to you by Libertyville Dentist Dr. David Potts.

Disparity in Emergency Dental Care?

My husband and I ended up having simultaneous toothaches. We don’t usually go to a dentist, which is probably why we ended up with toothaches to begin with. We saw separate emergency dentists because we both wanted to be seen right away. Somehow, even though we had the same symptoms, I ended up with a root canal treatment and dental crown and he just received a simple filling. What’s up with the disparity of treatment? Did I get an overtreatment?


Dear Angela,

Woman grabbing her jaw in need of an emergency dentist

There are a lot of reasons for a toothache. It’s very likely you both received the perfect treatment from your emergency dentists because you had different causes for your pain. A root canal treatment and crown are usually the result of a dental infection. Your husband may have just needed a filling. I do realize he had a toothache as well. But, everyone has a different pain threshold. Maybe your problem had been brewing for a while, but your tolerance for pain is much better than your husband’s. That gave your decay more time to spread, reaching the pulp and requiring a root canal treatment.

I’m a tad concerned that neither of the dentists you went to seemed to have explained your diagnosis or why you needed the treatments they provided. This should be standard procedure. While I’m glad you received timely treatment when you needed it, I don’t think either of these dentists are ones you’d want to settle with as your permanent dentists.

The Easiest Way to Avoid Needing an Emergency Dentist

You mentioned that neither of you regularly see a dentist. In my experience, there are usually two reasons that people avoid seeing a dentist regularly. The first is financial. Without insurance, it can be hard to afford dental care. If you’ve found yourself in that situation, I’d do an internet search for an affordable dentist. They’re usually more willing to work with patients on payment options. But, be careful, don’t confuse cheap with affordable.

When talking about affordability, the sooner a problem is caught the less expensive the treatment. For instance, regular checkups catch decay early enough where you can have a small filling. If you wait, then the decay can become too large for a filling requiring a dental crown. If you wait even longer, it becomes an infection requiring a root canal treatment. If you wait longer, you’ll either lose the tooth requiring an expensive tooth replacement or lose your life because the infection spreads to your heart or brain.

The second reason people avoid the dentist is fear. Often dental anxiety stems from a traumatic experience in the dental chair as a child. If either of you get a tiny bit unsteady and nervous about the idea of a dental exam or if you have trouble getting numb, then you probably have some degree of dental anxiety.

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution. Try going to a sedation dentist. This will give you a stress-free and pain-free appointment. Many who’ve feared the dentist for years find it completely changes their outlook and they’re able to go to the dentist without the fear they’ve battled for years.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. David Potts.

Is Dental Sedation Safe?

I haven’t gone to a dentist in years. I’m terrified of them. But, I’m also beginning to get embarrassed by my smile. I have a visible cavity on one of my front teeth. So I talked to a friend about how afraid I am and she mentioned dental sedation. The only thing that worries me is the safety of it. How safe is it?


Dear Laura,

A woman lsleeping in a dental chair from dental sedation

How fantastic that you’re taking steps to improve your oral health. It’s not uncommon for people who avoid the dentist to be uncomfortable with their smile. You’re in a more urgent position having a cavity that you can see. These can limp along slowly or they can suddenly go deep and turn into a dental emergency. Because of that, you wouldn’t want to put this off. There’s the added benefit that the sooner you take care of this, the less invasive the treatment will be. You could get a simple filling as opposed to a root canal and porcelain crown.

Sedation dentistry is often a fantastic solution for people with dental anxiety. It allows them to have stress-free / pain-free appointments. Additionally, you’re able to get more work done in one appointment then you’d normally be able to do in one appointment. This helps you catch up on your neglected work much sooner than would otherwise be possible.

Upping Your Odds With Dental Sedation

Dental Sedation is very safe. However, it’s designed to take away your anxiety. We definitely don’t want it causing some. For someone with your anxiety level, we’d recommend oral conscious sedation. All you have to do is take a special pill. Though, it makes you a tad woozy. Because of that, we insist our patients have someone drive them to and from their appointment for safety reasons.

I think it will help put your mind at ease if you specifically chose a dentist who was DOCS certified. DOCS stands for The Dental Organization for Oral Conscious Sedation. Dentists who’ve taken the time to train with them are well versed in both the safety and emergency protocols to keep their patients in good health. Dr. Potts has done extensive training with them and is now awarded a fellowship. That’s the type of dentist you want to find in the area in which you live.

I hope this puts your mind at ease. This blog is brought to you by Libertyville, IL dentist Dr. David Potts.

The Most Work in One Appointment

I hate dentists. I hope you won’t be offended by that I just find it’s best to be honest up front. I have what is possibly a tooth infection. It hurts. So, if I’m going to suck it up and go in to see a dentist, I want to get as much work done as possible. What’s the most work I could get done in just one visit?


Dear Carlton,

A woman's eye closed, asleep from sedation dentistry

I’m sorry about your toothache. Your admission about dentists doesn’t offend me in the least. I also think it’s important for patients to be upfront about things. It helps me to know the best treatment options for them.

How much work can get done in one appointment varies so much from dentist to dentist it’s hard to give you an estimate. Plus, you didn’t mention what procedures you think you’ll need. A tooth infection will need a root canal treatment. However, I don’t know if you’re talking about a root canal on a front tooth or a molar. That also varies in time. Some dentists can do a molar in one hour, but most take up to one and a half to two hours.

Dentists who use dental sedation are usually able to get more work done per appointment. The reason for that is it’s easier on the patient. Dentists limit the patient’s time in the chair out of consideration for their comfort. Sedation keeps them comfortable for longer periods of time. You may even find it changes your outlook about dental care and start going more regularly.

Tooth Pain is a Dental Emergency

Please don’t put this off too long. Tooth pain is often a sign of a dental infection. I know it sounds hard to believe but people still die of tooth infections. The United States saw several deaths from from infected teeth in 2017.

The sooner you deal with it the better. It may be the tooth can be saved. If it gets too far along, it will end up needing to be extracted. That will require expensive tooth replacements, such as dental implants.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. David Potts.

Canker Sore or Cancer?

I have had a canker sore for ten days. I’ve never had one before but I hear they take a while to heal. But, now my sister has me worried. She said her best friend had what she thought was a canker sore, but it ended up being oral cancer. Is that really possible or is my sister just trying to freak me out? I tend to avoid the dentist, but this may send me to one.


Dear Elinor,

Woman grabbing her jaw in need of an emergency dentist
Canker Sore or Cancer?

Your sister is not pulling your leg. Oral cancer can be mistaken for a canker sore. So, how can you tell? I wouldn’t rush off to the emergency dentist just quite yet. They can take up to two weeks to heal. It’s no fun and they’re a bit on the painful side. If you go much past two weeks and it’s not healed, then a trip to the dentist would be in order.

The trick to a canker sore is getting by until it heals. The first thing I’d start doing is start using a rinse which will kill germs in order to help move the healing along. You can purchase Listerine, which works great or make a homemade rinse made of peroxide and water. Just mix it in a 1:1 ratio.

Other than that, all you can do is use some type of numbing medication. For canker sores, they come in two varieties The first is a pad that’s supposed to adhere to the sore and keep it covered to cut down on the pain. Truthfully, our mouths are so moist these are hard to keep on. Your better option would be the gel that comes out of a tube. These sometimes have an antiseptic in their ingredients which helps prevent it from infection.

How to Avoid Dental Emergencies

Someone cowering behind a wooden chair
Patients no longer have to hide from the dentist

You mentioned you tend to avoid going to the dentist. My experience has been those who avoid the dentist tend to do it for one of two reasons (sometimes both).

First, is financial. Dental care costs money. It’s not exactly like spending money on a movie or restaurant where you get to have fun. You’re spending money to have someone stick pointy instruments into your mouth. Because of that, some people don’t think of it as a priority. Others really struggle to come up with the money for a check-up.

If you’re the latter, start by trying for one check-up a year. It’s better than nothing and will actually save you money in the long run. For instance, with regular dental care, your dentist can tell you quite early when you’re developing decay. A simple filling costs hundreds less than a root canal treatment which you’ll need if the decay progresses too far. It costs thousands less than if you wait so long that the tooth can’t be saved. Then you’re talking about a tooth extraction and a tooth replacement, such as dental implants (which also means surgery). “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is a very true statement. Also, you should know that dentists will always check you for signs of oral cancer at your checkups.

The second reason people avoid tend to avoid the dentist is fear. This generally has its seeded beginning from a bad experience they had in their childhood. Now that they’re an adult and there’s no one to force them into going, it’s easier to skip. If that’s your situation, I’m about to change your life. I’d like you to try an appointment with a sedation dentist. They can give you a simple pill to take which completely relaxes you. You still have all your ability to talk and function if you want to, but you’re so relaxed you could actually sleep through the entire procedure. In fact, most patients do sleep through it.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. David Potts.

Helping My Girlfriend After Dental Sedation

My girlfriend is having a procedure where she needs dental sedation. She said she’ll need a caregiver to get the procedure done. I agreed to be her caregiver, but I’m a little terrified. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do. What does being her caregiver entail?


Dear Charles,

Someone asleep from sedation dentistry

It’s great that you’re trying to plan ahead to learn what you have to do to help your girlfriend. Believe me, it’s not nearly as scary as you think. Though, I do understand with it being an unknown why you’d be nervous.

The main thing with dental sedation is she will be very groggy and unstable on her feet—possibly even a little goofy. I’m sure you’ve seen videos on YouTube of people coming off of sedation saying silly things. There was even a video which went viral where some brothers pranked their sister into thinking there was a zombie apocalypse.

I don’t recommend you do anything like this. You’re there to make sure she doesn’t fall or anything like that. Plus, it wouldn’t hurt to pamper her a bit. Have a comfy spot ready for her on the couch and some DVDs or Netflix ready for her to binge on.

The dentist will give you any post-operative instructions. They won’t be hard but feel free to ask the dentist as many questions as you need.

Benefits of Dental Sedation

  • It’s a lifesaver for people who have dental anxiety. Those who fear the dentist often have trouble getting numb. That’s because anxiety increases their metabolism which causes them to burn off the local anesthetic. Using dental sedation relaxes them enough to where the dentist can get them completely numb. Too often fearful patients avoid the dentist, which often means they end up with dental emergencies. Knowing they can have a pain free appointment enables them to get work done before they have serious problems.
  • More work can be done in one appointment. When you’re completely awake and alert it can be challenging to keep your jaw open for an extended period of time, which means multiple appointments to break up the amount of time the patient needs to keep their jaw wide. With sedation, a patient generally sleeps through the procedure, so it’s much easier for the dentist to do more work. That means fewer dental appointments for the patient.

Relax. Keep her comfortable. Help her when she needs to move from place to place. That’s pretty much it.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. David Potts.

Can I Take a Sleeping Pill Before Dental Work?

I’ve got an upcoming dental appointment where I need some work done. I have dental anxiety. I’d really rather just sleep through the procedure, but my dentist doesn’t believe in sedation dentistry. I’m too scared. Would it be okay if I just took a sleeping pill before I went?

Loriee L.

Dear Loriee,

I’m going to say up front this isn’t the best dentist for you. With your dental anxiety, you need a sedation dentist. Here are the biggest concerns.

It is possible that your regular office will be okay with you taking some type of medication (like sleeping pills) during your treatment, but if they are you should have a discussion with your doctor about it well in advance. They’ll need to make sure that you won’t have any interactions with other medications he gives you.

Another potential concern is that the medicines you’ll normally receive in a dental office aren’t intended to put you to sleep. While many patients do doze off because they’re so relaxed, that’s not their primary function. If you take a medication which totally puts you out and you can’t follow instructions or cooperate with your treatment, there could be issues.

With sedation dentistry, you’re able to respond to your dentist. On top of this, sedation dentists and his staff receive regular emergency training and are prepared for medical contingencies. I highly doubt your current dentist and their staff have that important training.

Many patients with dental anxiety find that their anxiety causes their metabolism to speed up, which in turns burns off the anesthetic. Some patients can’t become numb without sedation.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. David Potts.

Solutions for a Stuntman Who Can’t Seem to Keep His Teeth?

I’m a movie stuntman. I lose more teeth than most of my colleagues. I’m not sure why, but I need to find a solution for replacing my teeth that keep falling out until my luck changes. Will dental implants work? I’m not the best at going to the dentist. I know it sounds ridiculous given my career choice, but I’m terrified of dentists.

Bruce D. – California


You have an exciting and dangerous career. Before we start discussing replacements for your teeth, though, I’d like to see if you can figure out why you’re losing more teeth than the average stuntman. It may not actually be your “bad luck”.  If you don’t go to the dentist much it’s possible you’re struggling with gum disease. That would account for your teeth popping out more than most. Your gums may not be strong enough to keep them secure. If you get the gum disease dealt with, you may find your teeth much more secure during future stunts.

I realize you have some dental anxiety. Don’t beat yourself up about that, even given your career. There are many patients who don’t like the dentist, including many brave men. I know some soldiers who need additional help at the dentist. I have the same solution for you that I use with them. People with some form of dental anxiety often find that dental sedation changes their life and view of the dentist.

If you find a way to keep more of your teeth in, then dental implants are a fantastic tooth replacement. It’s like having your natural teeth back. However, if your teeth and gums are healthy and you’re still losing more teeth than the average stuntman, it won’t be a viable replacement option for you. It will end up costing you too much money and time to keep replacing them.

In that case, you would want to look at getting a dental bridge or possible removable partial dentures. They’re a lot easier to replace than dental implants.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. David Potts.