I need my dentist to be gentler with me. He gives the worst shots ever. It’s pretty rare that I need to get anesthetic, but when I do, it is absolutely without a doubt some of the worst pain I’ve ever felt. He’s good in other ways. He talks me through procedures and I always feel good and comfortable in the office, but he’s just really bad at giving shots. I had to have a cavity filled at my last checkup and I tried to blame it on me. I told him that I was really sensitive to shots and asked him to go easy on me. He kind of brushed it off and told me shots can be uncomfortable, then went ahead and did what he always does. I’ve been with him for about six years and the guy I saw before wasn’t like this at all, so I know it doesn’t always have to hurt like this. Anyway, he found another cavity this time around and I’m afraid to go back in for the work. Is there anything I can say or do to get him to be more careful with me or something I can do ahead of time to prep myself?
Here’s the hard truth: you asked the dentist to be gentle once already and he dismissed you. It wasn’t like he said he would try and it was still uncomfortable despite his efforts. He refused to try. That’s a huge red flag. His compassion and bedside manner are lacking.
Numbing with Minimal Discomfort Requires Skill and Patience
There are a few things that go into delivering numbing agents in a more comfortable way. Some are within the dentist’s control and some are not. For example, if he uses numbing gel first and leaves in on for a while, that has a huge impact. It also makes a difference whether he delivers the injection slowly or quickly. It may sound counter-intuitive, but you actually want him to deliver the medication slowly because that gives the body time to absorb it rather than bubbling out around the injection site. The latter hurts because the skin is being stretched. If he’s in a rush or goes too fast, it’s going to be more uncomfortable.
On the flip side, the doctor is placing medication based on facial landmarks. Nerves take the same general path on everyone and the medication needs to be delivered close enough that the area numbs well without actually bumping or piercing the nerve. However, the nerves don’t take the exact same path on everyone, and so it’s possible to come close to a nerve or nick one even while being very diligent. If this has happened to you, you would have felt something akin to a lightning bolt shooting through the area.
You Can Help Minimize Discomfort Too
While it doesn’t sound like this next part is a problem for you, being hydrated makes a difference too. You’ll have an easier time getting numb if you’ve had enough water that day.
Furthermore, studies show that, if you’re nervous, you may actually feel more pain. Researchers generally believe that it’s because you’re more focused on what’s happening, but either way, it pays to go into the appointment as relaxed as possible. If you personally use any relaxation techniques, such as meditation, try them out in the dental chair. You can also ask about using something like nitrous oxide to relax.
Find a Genuinely Gentle Dentist
None of what’s outlined here is new information and your office should have shared some or all of it with you when you expressed concern. Because they didn’t, it might be time to start looking for an office which genuinely offers compassionate care. As you experienced with your last dentist, there are gentle dentists out there. Best of luck to you.