Are There Dentists for Anxious Patients?

I’m hoping to find the best dentist for anxious patients. This probably sounds silly for an adult to ask. Though I have dealt with this since childhood. I had an awful appointment and I’ve never been comfortable with the dentist since.  I just thought there might be a dentist who’d be willing to work with a jumpy grown up.

Stella B. – North Carolina

Dear Stella,

First, let me start off by telling you many adults suffer from dental anxiety, so you aren’t alone in your feelings. And, most dental anxieties stem from negative childhood experiences. So, please don’t feel like you’re being silly.

Finding the best dentist when you have anxiety is easy if you know what to look for, and yes, there are some “dental code words” that might help you find your target. You should know that dental anxiety is incredibly common and there’s nothing silly about it at all. In fact, it’s good that you recognize it because that means you can start to work to control it, too.

For starters, you’ll want to look for some specific phrases when you’re selecting offices.

Generally, when you see these types of phrases, it means the doctor understands anxiety and will work with you, rather than pressuring you to respond a certain way. You’ll find that the best dentist for you could be using any of the terms or even a mix of them.

Going forward, you may also want to consider sedation dentistry. Even if you just choose an office that specializes in it, you’ll know for sure that they understand the anxious patient. You don’t have to go for all-out sedation. However, you could also try nitrous during an appointment, just to take the edge off. It wears off quickly- as soon as it’s shut off, so you can drive home afterward and it won’t affect the rest of your day. Anyone who uses one of those terms should be a good fit for you, though. Best of luck to you.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. John Theriot.

Medical Marijuana and Dental Emergencies

I have a prescription for medical marijuana which I use for anxiety. I broke a tooth and will be booking with an emergency dentist in a couple of days and will be utilizing my prescription in the meantime. I am curious to know if this will matter to the emergency dentist. Can he refuse to treat me? If so, is there harm in not telling him? I know many people are progressive these days, but there is still a stigma with some.



Dear Tom,

The situation will likely be handled differently from one emergency dentist to another. From a medical standpoint, there can be complications if you have marijuana in your system during your appointment. Because marijuana varies in strength and there’s no way to know how much you’re taking in, nor how much will be in your system at the time of the appointment, it can be a recipe for disaster.

Some studies have shown that marijuana use before receiving epinephrine can make your heart beat abnormally fast or cause peripheral vasodilation. If you already have anxiety, it can create a dangerous, if not deadly, situation. Most of the time, the dentist will use a local anesthetic with epinephrine, though if he is aware that it is contraindicated, he will use something else.

Moreover, if your tooth needs an extraction and the dentist wants to give you pain medication for afterward, your existing prescriptions and over-the-counter medications will be taken into account. Because everything works together differently, he will need to take great care to ensure anything he gives you is safe.

Yes, there is still some stigma in certain circles, but that is something you’ll have to tackle head-on for the sake of your health and safety. You can always call more than one emergency dentist and let them know what medications you are taking in advance, just to see how they react.

Bear in mind, dentists treat patients from all walks of life, and most doctors have had a patient or two who used marijuana before it legalized in any fashion. Typically, it is treated as any other medication, though you’re still likely to hear about some of the dental side-effects of marijuana use, such as dry mouth and an increased risk for cavities. Take heart when you hear these messages, because you may learn how to prevent some dental woes, even if you continue to make use of your prescription.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. John Theriot.