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Don't be afraid to join the team: Amber's story

Amber was absolutely petrified of the dentist -- so much so that she waited a long time before seeking necessary care. By then her gums were swollen and she had spots of pain. In other words, she waited too long.

"It wasn't as if I had no reason for avoiding the dentist. My last experience was so horrible it actually traumatized me. Halfway through a procedure the anesthetic wore off -- not only was I no longer numb, I suddenly felt piercing stabs in my gum. I put my hands up and tried frantically to get out of the dental chair. But two assistants actually physically restrained me while the dentist finished what he was doing."

Twelve years passed after that difficult day. Now Amber's problems had multiplied. She had adult teeth that never emerged, leaving baby teeth in place. She had teeth that were decayed and discolored, all crying out for long-overdue maintenance. Then she happened to hear an ad for something called sedation care. But despite the reassuring words uttered, Amber still couldn't bring herself to even make a simple phone call to a dental office.

After three weeks Amber made an appointment, but still dreaded the actual visit. And when she walked through the door, she still wondered: will they even be willing to work on such terrible teeth?

The answer came almost immediately, she recalls. "The staff was excited to see me. They were incredibly warm and welcoming. And the experience of sedation itself was completely relaxing. I was awake, but calm. The dentist would occasionally ask me questions and I had no problem following him and responding."

Knowing she could now face any dental problem made it easy for Amber to return to routine care. And suddenly possessing healthy teeth made a difference she hadn't anticipated in her social life. "I smiled more, and I took more chances. For example, I had always wanted to join an adult soccer league. It's such a great sport and I played as a teenager. But I was so self-conscious about meeting new people. Now it's the highlight of my week and I've made many new friends."