Dentistry while you sleep

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Anesthesia helps patients with dental phobias

By SuzannE Laurent

Hampton Union, February 22, 2015

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Barton McGirl
Dr. Barton McGirl offers anesthesia for dental patients in his Hampton office.
[Suzanne Laurent photo]

HAMPTON — For some people, even a routine dental cleaning and checkup brings on sweaty palms and a racing heart. And some have an extreme fear of receiving dental care, called dental phobia.

And, because of this extreme fear, or painful past dental encounters, people will neglect their oral health and not see a professional for years. This, of course, compromises their overall health.

What if you could sleep through the whole thing?

At Dr. Barton McGirl’s practice in Hampton, you can. McGirl is also a dental anesthesiologist and he is able to precisely control his patients’ comfort and level of consciousness with monitored intravenous anesthesia/sedation care.

“About 25 to 30 percent of the population has dental phobia,” McGirl said. “Some of these do tend to be older patients who had bad experiences with dental care when they were younger.”

In addition to dental phobia, anesthesia during dental work can also benefit patients with special needs, compromised medical conditions, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or those with a severe gag reflex.

McGirl graduated dental school from the University of Toronto, Canada, and then completed a general practice residency at the University of Western Ontario.

“I’ve always been interested in anesthesiology,” he said.

This led him to enter a dental anesthesiology residency at the University of Pittsburg and then an outpatient anesthesiology fellowship. At the completion of his anesthesia training he further completed an oral implantology fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh.

Currently, McGirl is part of a select group of oral implantologists who provide both implant surgery (placement) and implant restoration (attaching new teeth).

He and his wife have lived in Hampton for 16 years and have two teenage sons. He has practiced dentistry with anesthesia for 20 years, 10 at his High Street location in Hampton.

“The majority of my patients have significant dental needs,” McGirl said. “And, they’ve avoided the dentist for years due to fear or medical conditions.”

Being a dental anesthesiology allows McGirl to safely deliver sedation through an intravenous line. He has an extensive consultation with each new patient to determine the patient’s medical history and any prior surgeries requiring anesthesia.

“I’ve seen thousands of patients over my 20 years of practicing and safety is of the utmost concern,” he said. “And, over the years, essentially every patient has told us how relieved he or she was to be asleep for treatment.”

McGirl recommends first bringing a child to the dentist at age 6 mos. to 1 year or when the first tooth comes in.

“This educates the adults on good dental hygiene and exposes children to the dental environment,” he said. “Medical sciences have advanced so much in dentistry, and it’s important to drive home the fact that the mouth is not an isolated part of the body – that good dental health is a critical component of overall good health.”

He finds it alarming that two-thirds of the American adult population over 30 years old have some stage of periodontal disease.

“A lot of it is genetics,” he said. “But good home care and education can help control it.”

McGirl said his practice is “comfortable, critical and compassionate” in the delivery of good dental care by being able to offer anesthesia to patients who either have dental phobia or medical conditions.

“We are unique within New England in our ability to provide extremely specialized care for patients who wish to be asleep for their dental care,” he said.

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