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Dentists finding ways to make their work painless

mouth January 10, 1997
Web posted at: 12:00 a.m. EST

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MIAMI (CNN) -- The American Dental Association says 10 million Americans avoid the tooth doctor out of fear of pain. But Dr. Gordon Sokoloff prides himself on being as close as possible to a painless dentist.

He employs the latest techniques to make patients forget where they're sitting and what's going on around them, from soothing pictures on the ceiling to headsets for listening to their favorite music.

virtual reality

Young patients, in particular, enjoy the music and virtual reality glasses which they can use to watch movies such as "Back to the Future" and "Waterworld."

While they are preoccupied with the movie, he uses things like nitrous oxide -- laughing gas, to some -- and that helps them to relax even more.

Camera shows work in progress on monitor

As a result, he says, "the little pricks and pokes that you might feel when you get an injection or even when you have your teeth cleaned, you don't feel those at all."

Dentists say their profession is constantly exploring new ways to reduce and eventually eliminate pain. One advance is the use of an "inter-oral" camera that allows patients to see what's going on a television monitor.

For some, that seems to reduce anxiety.

High-speed drills, sharper disposable needles and even lasers will further reduce the pain.

"There is even electronic anesthesia that is being investigated now that helps reduce pain to some extent," says Dr. Samuel Dorn of the Florida Dental Association.

Not pain-free yet, but closer


Dentists admit that not all procedures can be pain free, at least not yet. But many routine procedures are close.

"I like that you get offered a glass of wine or music or something to calm you," says patient Barbara Gorin. "And Dr. Sokoloff is really a painless dentist, which is also very nice. I mean, even for a cleaning you never have to have pain."

While going to the dentist is still a very real fear for many people, dentists say it is less and less a reality.


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