When I was living in New York, I spent 6 months working at a hospital in downtown Manhattan. We mostly did regular dentistry there, nothing very exciting. But occasionally, we would be asked to work with oral surgeons, either to assist, help take out teeth, or to shadow and gain experience.
There was one surgeon who I would sometimes work with who had a thing about pain. Not causing it, but saying it. Anytime anyone said the word “pain” there would be glove thrown at you, or some reminder to not say that word. It took weeks of gloves being thrown, daggers being stared and the occasional “would you shut up?”, before it finally took hold. You’ll never hear me say that word now – even typing it feels weird.
His reasoning was sound – say the word “pain” and you’ve just given that patient something to think about, something to anticipate and search for. Even something as innocent as “let me know if you feel pain and I’ll stop right away” is enough to make someone expect that pain. And when someone expects pain, they could be more likely to experience it.
The same goes for other words. “Needle” is the main one. I never say it. Children, adults, it doesn’t matter. Most people know that a needle is used and it’s one of the biggest reasons people are afraid of the dentist. But as soon as it’s said out loud, you start picturing it, imagining it being used and what it’s going to feel like. And once again you’re more likely to feel it when I use it.
Nothing is more frustrating than a parent in the room with their anxious son or daughter and having the parent say “ok, he’s going to give you the needle now”, or “he’s very afraid of the needle”. I recommend every parent to not use that word (again, it’s weird for me to even type it). If someone (child or adult) is wondering what we do to make the tooth numb, it’s far better to feign ignorance, not tell them and make it my job to tell them. Because odds are, they won’t even feel the needle, especially if they’re not expecting to feel something.
If you’ve ever wondered why I’m always saying “discomfort”, “sensitivity”, or “freezing”, it’s because it’s been drilled (pun intended) into my brain and ultimately makes for a better experience for the patient, which is ultimately my goal.
If you’re looking for a dentist in Calgary, we’re happy to see new patients. Give West Peaks Dental Suite a call at 403-281-4264.