Periodontists say fear of procedures is overblown


Thursday December 23 , 1999 1:30 PM ET

NEW YORK, Dec 23 (Reuters Health) — For many of us, drills, needles, and other dental implements remain the stuff of nightmares. But a new survey finds that the vast majority of patients who undergo periodontal treatments actually report little or no pain linked to the procedures.

“In recent years, we have seen wonderful advances in our ability to treat periodontal conditions in a comfortable way,” said Dr. Vincent Linz, an Ohio periodontist. His comments are published in a recent statement from the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), which represents the nation’s specialists in treating gum disease and other gum disorders.

According to a recent AAP survey of 164 periodontists, nearly half said their patients were often “fearful” of treatments.

However, 75% of the doctors interviewed also noted that only about 1 in every 10 patients complained of “extreme discomfort or pain” during the actual procedure.

New Jersey periodontist Dr. Richard Kaplan said he tries to make patient comfort “a priority,” adding that “one of the things I most like hearing a patient say is ‘that wasn’t bad at all.”’

Overall, 84% of doctors responding to the survey said they had modified their procedures to try and ease patient fears. And 59% said that within the past 3 years they had added new equipment or medications to make treatments less painful.

The survey found that male patients in their 40s and 50s were more likely than women or younger men to express ‘treatment anxiety.’ “Patients are most likely to be afraid of feeling pain and needles,” according to the AAP statement.

Periodontal experts believe that many of these fears may be a legacy of discomforts suffered in the past, rather than reflective of present realities. “Improvements in local anesthesia, pain and anxiety medications, and in some cases, conscious sedation, have made many procedures virtually pain-free,” the AAP point out.

A free explanatory booklet, entitled “Periodontal Surgery: What Can I Expect?” is available from the AAP at, or by calling 1-800-FLOSS-EM.

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