It’s a trend that Texas lawmakers are calling “alarming”: more and more dentists are offering alcohol to help calm patients down as they wait for an appointment. To stop the trend in their state, they have proposed a bill that would stop any healthcare provider from offering alcoholic beverages to patients.

This bill just passed committee, and is now up for debate in the full Senate. This is a good idea, but it shouldn’t be necessary. Dentists should know that there are better ways to control patient anxiety than alcohol.

Single Glass of Straight Bourbon

An Old-Fashioned Anesthetic

Early dentists used alcohol as an anesthetic. On the American frontier where most dentists were untrained, they relied on their folk wisdom to make diagnostic and treatment decisions. So alcohol seemed like a good way to knock people out for a procedure.

This practice continued for many years even in areas where dentistry was supposedly much more advanced. More circus con man than dentist Edgar “Painless” Parker initially offered his own custom cocktail of whiskey and cocaine as a pain relief potion for his 50 cent tooth extractions. It didn’t work so well, which is why he later added a brass band that could drown out the sounds of his screaming patients.

Not Great for Anxiolysis

Although many people use alcohol on a daily basis to try to combat anxiety of one type or another, it’s not a great anxiolytic.

While it’s true that alcohol can reduce a person’s anxiety, there are many problems with using it. First, dosing is imprecise. A person offered a drink (or two) might not have a high or low tolerance for alcohol due to their tendency to use it on a daily basis. In addition, the delayed effect of alcohol can make it hard to properly dose for a procedure, when people may not feel the effects of alcohol at first, and only later realize how much they’ve drunk.

Alcohol also has the potential to interact with other medications used during or after a procedure. It can also impact healing. It’s been associated with the complication osteonecrosis after dental implant procedures.

In addition, alcohol has some side effects that can be annoying. It’s a diuretic–which means it makes a person have to urinate–which can interfere with longer procedures. It can also make some patients talkative, fidgety, or even belligerent.

Put all this together, and alcohol definitely doesn’t seem like an ideal approach to helping dental patients relax.

A Better Alternative for Anxiety

The good news is that we can leave the use of alcohol for dentistry back in the 19th century. Today we have an advanced approach to dental anxiety. NuCalm uses neuroscience to deactivate the body’s stress responses. There are no drugs involved, so there are no drug-related side effects and no risk of interactions. Patients using NuCalm also report having significantly less pain and swelling following surgery.

So if you’re looking for an effective approach to relieving dental anxiety, please contact a local NuCalm dentist today for an appointment.