I Am Scared of Needles. How Can I Make It Through a Dentist’s Appt?

I am scared of needles but need to see a dentist for work on three lower left teeth that are really in bad shape. I keep putting it off, but I can’t take it anymore because the toothaches are intense, making me nauseous, and making my breath smell rank. I know that my fear has made the situation worse. Is there anything I can do to psych myself out to make it through the appointment? Thank you. Kyle F. from Baltimore, MD

Kyle –

Thank you for your question. Dental anxieties and phobias affect millions of people. A caring, gentle dentist will listen to understand what causes your anxiety and how to minimize it.

How Can You Avoid the Pain of a Dentist’s Needle?

You can avoid the pain of a dentist’s needle by looking for a gentle dentist who caters to anxious or fearful patients. They enjoy seeing nervous patients and putting them at ease. The dentist will numb your gums around your teeth before injecting a local anesthetic to prevent you from feeling it. You can enjoy a comfortable, painless experience without feeling sensations from the dentist’s needle. A gentle dentist will offer distractions while you sit in the dental chair for treatment, such as headphones with music, an overhead TV, or a cozy blanket.

How Can You Find a Pain-Free Dentist?

You can find a pain-free dentist by asking friends or family members for recommendations for a gentle dentist. Otherwise, look online for dentists who cater to patients with dental anxiety. Choose two dentists, and schedule consultations with them. You will be able to discuss your concerns, ask questions, and get a feel for the dentist, the staff, and the office environment. Then you can choose a dentist to help you get a productive, painless dental appointment.

Act swiftly. The intensity of your toothaches is a symptom of an infection that requires prompt dental care.

The Salem, Massachusetts, dentists at Burba Dental Partners sponsor this post.

Is There an Age Limit for Dental Implants?

I’ve worn dentures for 20 years and have never been happy with them, so I’m considering getting dental implants to support a new denture. Unfortunate circumstances in my family have left me emotionally devastated but have given me some unexpected income. I feel bad that things have turned out this way, but I want to do a few things for myself that are not excessive.

Dental implants would make me feel better in so many ways. I’m just worried about the condition of my jaw and my age. I’m almost 65 years old. Will you please tell me the age limit for getting dental implants? – Jackson from Austin, TX


Is There an Age Limit for Dental Implants?

Your medical history, not your age, will determine whether you are a dental implant candidate. You can qualify for dental implants if you are well enough for oral procedures and in generally good health. Dental implants will erase much of the frustration commonly experienced with dentures. Your dentures will look better and feel more like your natural teeth.

Can You Get Implants If You’ve Worn Dentures for Years?

Although wearing dentures for many years will not prevent you from getting dental implants, there are some factors to consider.

  • Since you have worn dentures for more than 20 years, you probably have significant jawbone shrinkage.
  • Implants require enough bone volume for support, so you may need bone grafting before implants if you have bone shrinkage.
  • After bone grafting procedures, the grafting sites need three to four months to heal.
  • After the bone heals and an implant dentist places the implants, it takes three to four months for your jawbone to fuse with the implants. Meanwhile, you can wear temporary dentures.
  • When your jawbone and implants fuse, your dentist will attach your final denture to the implant abutments, or connectors.

What to Expect If You Receive Implant Dentures

The benefits of implant-supported dentures are many:

  • Your denture will be stable and no longer slip around. The more implants you have, the more stable your denture will be.
  • It will be easier to eat and speak with dentures.
  • If you have already started to experience facial sagging, bone grafting will help support your facial muscles. You will look years younger.
  • Dental implants stimulate your jawbone like tooth roots and prevent jawbone shrinkage and further facial sagging.

We recommend scheduling appointments with at least two implant dentists to learn about their qualifications and training and discuss your options.

The Salem, Massachusetts, dentists at Burba Dental Partners sponsor this post.

Why Does My Jaw Keep Locking?

My jaw keeps locking. The pain was so bad last night that I couldn’t sleep. I took ibuprofen and put a warm compress on the side of my face to get a little relief, but I know this will not go away by itself. My dentist took impressions of my mouth four months ago and gave me a night guard, but it is not helping.

The pain interferes with eating, talking, working, sleeping, everything. Do I need an adjustment to the night guard? Or should I skip another visit to my dentist and get another opinion on why my jaw keeps locking? Thank you. Brielle from Chico, CA


Thank you for your question. We are sorry that you are experiencing such discomfort and pain. As you may know, jaw locking is often a symptom of temporomandibular joint disorder. We will explain why your jaw continually locks and what to do about it.

Why Does Your Jaw Keep Locking?

Jaw locking, or trismus, is often related to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. Other conditions can cause jaw locking, including:

  • Trauma
  • Oral surgery
  • Infection
  • Cancer
  • Radiation treatment for head or throat cancer

How Can You Find the Cause of Jaw Locking?

You can find the cause of repeated jaw locking by scheduling an exam from a dentist with post-graduate TMJ training. Depending on the severity of the issue and the tests you have already had, a thorough examination includes:

  • Analyzing your jaw joints and bite
  • Bloodwork
  • CT scan
  • Measuring your mouth opening
  • MRI
  • X-rays

Visit the TMJ Association’s website for details on the importance of ruling out other conditions.

Are Your Symptoms Related to TMJ?

A trained dentist can determine if your symptoms are TMJ related. Occasional jaw popping and clicking are not unusual and do not necessarily mean that you have a TMJ disorder. Still, you might have a TMJ disorder if you experience these signs and symptoms:

  • A bite that feels off
  • Chronic headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Ear fullness or pressure
  • Earaches
  • Jaw locking, pain, or stiffness
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
  • Vision problems

What Is the Right Treatment for TMJ?

The proper TMJ treatment depends on the cause and severity of your signs and symptoms. A dentist may recommend any of these methods:

  • Pain reliever
  • Orthotics
  • Orthodontics
  • Splint
  • Night guard
  • Dental restorations, such as implants, crowns, or bridges
  • Warm or cold compresses
  • Temporarily eating soft foods only to minimize chewing and let your jaw rest

Schedule a Second-Opinion Appointment

If you are experiencing ongoing jaw pain and locking, search online for a dentist with advanced TMJ training. After an exam, the dentist will determine whether your concerns are TMJ related or if you need further care from another medical professional.

Salem, Massachusetts, dentist Dr. Randy Burba sponsors this post.