Friends, Not Foes

At practices like Dr. Richard D. Weigand’s, the relaxation starts with a calming reception area

At practices like Dr. Richard D. Weigands, the relaxation starts with a calming reception area. - YOUNG KWAK
Young Kwak
At practices like Dr. Richard D. Weigands, the relaxation starts with a calming reception area.

Urban, a Web page that allows the public to create alternative definitions consisting of everyday colloquialisms, defines “Dentist” as the following: “A dentist is a man or woman who takes great delight in hurting you. He does this with his vast collection of sharp, shiny and scary tools. Once he’s managed to make you cry — or pass out from pain — he charges you for it.”

A second entry identifies “Dentist” as “a sadist with newer magazines.”

Harsh? Yeah, kinda.

General lackluster enthusiasm for oral checkups is pervasive. Fear of being judged, hearing bad news, experiencing pain or simply eyeing a pokey instrument can induce a wave of panic.

“I had a traumatizing experience at the dentist when I was about 10 years old,” says Spokane native Jenna Nicol. “They numbed me all up and started pulling out one of my teeth with what looked like the pliers my dad uses on his cars. The dentist pulled so hard my head started going from side to side. Tears were streaming down my face.”

Many people have experienced similarly frightening situations. Ever since, says Nicol, she has associated the dentist with pain — even though many of her visits since have been pleasant.

“But I only remember the bad times, because that’s what I’ve come to expect from the dentist,” she says.

If any of these concerns sound familiar, you’re not alone. But take heart: Putting off a visit due to any of the reasons above is now obsolete. Modern dentistry has changed substantially in terms of ambience, communication and technology. Several offices in the Inland Northwest even resemble a spa, going above and beyond by offering comforts and amenities in an attempt to promote a more relaxing environment.

The office of Dr. Richard D. Weigand, DDS, for example, provides noise-canceling Bose headphones, blankets, pillows and scented towels after treatment. Liberty Lake Dental Care follows suit, offering beverages, paraffin hand dips, massage chairs, TV and music from iPods.

Cathi Kynaston, financial manager for Dr. Sue Weishaar, DDS, in Spokane Valley, says patient-dentist dynamics have changed tremendously. A major part of the progress stems from better communication.

“Many times dentists would give anesthetic without doing all the things that we can do to provide comfort to the patients,” she says. “We are really geared toward getting in touch with our patients and making sure we understand what they want.”

Dr. Weishaar and her team work with a coaching group to learn interpersonal skills to better relate to their patients. As a part of their continued education, this psychology-oriented training enhances their ability to identify how each particular patient best accepts or understands his or her treatment.

“We had one patient who was extremely afraid of the sound of a drill, so we made sure to stage her in a room far away from other drills. We gave her headphones, nitrous, and focused on making her feel comfortable,” says Kynaston. “Now she doesn’t have fear of the sound of the drill, and she gained trust in us.”

The emotional and aesthetic advances in dentistry aren’t the only aspects that have evolved, either. Dr. Weishaar’s office utilizes digital radiography, a more expeditious X-ray system with less radiation that allows the patient to see the images within seconds.

If the pain factor is keeping you at bay, Dr. Weigand will tell you that comfort and dental treatment can go hand in hand.

“With today’s advanced technology, dental procedures are faster, more comfortable and less painful. Laser dentistry is one example of how technology is used to assist the dentist in making dental treatment easier, faster and virtually pain-free,” he says.

With dental lasers, asserts Weigand, fearing your dentist can be an attitude of the past.

Laser treatment instead of drilling? Yes please.

Weigand uses several state-of-the art lasers, all utilized specifically with the patient’s comfort in mind. The Waterlase, for example, gently washes away tooth decay with laser-energized droplets of water. Made exclusively to treat hard tissues like teeth and bone, the Waterlase is safer than traditional methods, Weigand explains, because it eliminates the need to use a drill, thus reducing the chance of creating micro-fractures within the enamel. The Waterlase is also wonderful if you’re a needle-phobic, as it allows the dentist to repair small cavities without the use of anesthetic or drills.

“Additionally, laser dentistry tends to be more conservative since it can just focus on the cavity, leaving the rest of the tooth intact,” he says.

Another dental laser called the diode treats gum disease and heals cold sores, while the laser cavity detector is able to find cavities years earlier than a traditional dental examination would reveal — and smaller cavities, reminds Weigand, are always easier and less expensive to treat than larger ones.

If you’re uninsured, financial stresses only add anxiety. Many practices understand this, and accept payment plans like Care Credit. (Check it out at

Communication is key, insists Kynaston. If there’s something you’re afraid of, let the staff know. Chances are, they’ll be more than willing to accommodate you in whatever way they can.

“More offices today are open to working with patients who have a lot of fear,” says Elizabeth Anderson, treatment plan coordinator for Dr. Weishaar’s office. “Ask for a tour. If they’re willing to give you a tour of the office, then they’re probably going to be more willing to take the time to work with a patient who is more fearful.”

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About The Author

Blair Tellers

Blair Tellers is a freelance writer and a former Inlander intern.