Long before Tawnya Brown discovered the joys of sedation dentistry, some traumatic experiences created an intense fear of the dental chair.
Back in her early 20s, when she needed reconstructive work, the “cosmetic” dentist she chose treated her teeth badly.
When she told him she could feel everything he did, he refused to give Tawnya more anesthetic. “He just kept going,” she says. “It was extremely scary
“And when I went back later and told him that the bridge he’d put on hurt, he took a tool and, without Novocain, banged it off,” she recalls. “His assistant tried to stop him, warning that he might break my tooth, but he continued.
I recently lost that front tooth. It never recovered from what he did that day.”
Additionally, an individual crown that dentist made for Tawnya was done in a completely different color than the rest of her dental work. “I had a gray tooth, right in front. It didn’t look right, but he didn’t care,” she says. “So, despite my embarrassment, I never went back.”
A decade later, however, after the birth of her third child, she realized she had to try again. “I started having problems. With great hesitation, I went to see Dr. DeLuca, who was wonderful, sweet, and personable. She helped me turn my situation around.”
Difference in dentistry
Vivian C. DeLuca, DMD, an extensively trained general dentist with advanced education in oral surgery, endodontics, implant dentistry, and conscious sedation, believes in treating the whole patient.
“Our motto is Healthy smiles, healthy bodies, healthy lives,” she says. “I strive to motivate my patients back to the basics of good health by eliminating infection, then building on a healthy foundation. The positive changes snowball from there. Their teeth feel better and clean easier, they eat and sleep better, and ultimately their bodies and lifestyles become healthier.”
Dr. DeLuca considers conscious sedation one of the most valuable tools in her toolbox. “It allows me to treat patients efficiently,” she explains. “With sedation, they’re much more receptive and relaxed, which enables me to accomplish a lot more in one visit. I can take a very sick person and dramatically reduce their level of infection in just hours, while making dramatic changes in their appearance and self-esteem.”
Sedation also helps because relaxed patients don’t have that whole-body, whiteknuckled tension while in the chair. The prevention of this heightened state of anxiety results in a better, faster post-operative recovery. “Sedated patients are generally more comfortable more quickly, even after undergoing extensive procedures.”
The most important benefit, Dr. DeLuca adds, the one that attracts people to conscious sedation, is the amnesiac effect. Although not truly asleep, and
while they may appear deceptively lucid in conversation, sedation patients remember very little detail of their visit.
The sedation process
When Tawnya first started seeing Dr. DeLuca, sedation was a necessity. “I knew I had to go to the dentist, but I was scared to death. I was sedated the first few times but, after a while, I found I didn’t need it anymore.”
That progression, according to the doctor, is not uncommon. “Many patients have been traumatized in the past. Many of them insist on sedation at first, and then they become comfortable being awake for their dentistry. It’s an evolution of trust.”
The sedation process is extremely easy, Tawnya shares. “Dr. DeLuca explains and reviews everything in advance and gives you Valium to take the night before your visit so that, rather than worrying, you get a better night’s sleep. In the morning, you go in feeling much calmer.
“The doctor and assistants make you comfortable with pillows and blankets. They monitor your blood pressure throughout the procedure and give you tablets of Halcion, or Triazolam, crushed under your tongue so that your mind relaxes and you drift off.”
Strict protocols ensure both patient safety and the best possible result.
“Patients are escorted to the office by a family member or friend. No stimulants are allowed the night before or the morning of treatment that would interfere with the medications. Sedation patients are scheduled between eight and nine in the morning because they don’t eat until finished, and we get them well hydrated before they leave for home.
“Afterward, their homework is to get six hours of the best sleep they’ve probably had in years. I have them call me when they wake up, and we talk about how the procedures went and if there were any deviations.”
Amazing dental care
As Tawnya has evolved as a more confident dental patient, her progression in dentistry also extends to her career, taking her from patient to employee. After seeing Dr. DeLuca for her dental care for two years, Tawnya eventually made a career change when she was invited to join Dr. Deluca’s team as a business assistant.
In describing what made her want to work for the doctor, Tawnya’s list of reasons is long. “Dr. DeLuca is one of the most amazing people I have ever met,” she begins. “She is goodhearted and sincere, she puts patients first and, unlike most dentists I’ve been to, she listens to what you have to say and helps you with what you need.”
As an example, Tawnya remembers her own time in the dental chair. “I eventually found sedation unnecessary because, if Dr. DeLuca was working on me and I raised my hand, she would immediately stop and numb me further. No matter how much time it took, she wouldn’t restart until I was ready.”
Even more persuasive are the doctor’s interactions with Tawnya’s youngest child. “Most two-year-olds have to be sedated in order to be worked on. Dr. DeLuca is so kind and gentle that my two-year-old just hopped up in the chair, opened her mouth, and was ready to go.”
Now that she works in the office, Tawnya sees the same pattern repeated over and over. “Many people come in, just like I did, saying, No, you can’t touch me. I’m too scared of that needle. I have to be knocked out. They do sedation dentistry the first couple of times and then they see that Dr. DeLuca is so welcoming, understanding and knowledgeable, and she explains everything so that there are no surprises. Most of her patients end up not needing sedation anymore. I really think it’s a trust thing.”
Patients trust the doctor, Tawnya continues, because they are in such good hands. “Dr. DeLuca has a lot of training, and she continues to study every month because she loves what she does. If patients can’t make it there during the week, she takes time off her weekend to help, which I think is amazing.”
Since it’s part of her job as business assistant to speak to patients before their dental appointments, Tawnya has the opportunity to say a lot of good things about Dr. DeLuca. “I speak straight from the heart, but people sometimes tell me, You’re a good salesperson; you really talk her up.
But after they meet Dr. DeLuca and they have finished their appointment, they’ll say, You didn’t do her justice!”