W.J. Kelly was terrified of dentists. Having developed the phobia as a child, the 69-year-old Phoenixville resident recalled trembling in the examining room chair as the doctor worked on his teeth.
“They didn’t have the types of sedation then they have today,” Kelly says. “It’s why I stayed away from the dentist for so long. And I was a kid who needed the dentist; my father worked for a soda company, so I drank cases and cases of sugary soda, and like other kids I ate lots of candy.”Kelly’s dental condition worsened as the years passed. It wasn’t until 2004, when he noticed an advertising sign for West Chester Dental Arts, that he drummed up the courage to address his problems.
“The sign said they practice sedation dentistry,” Kelly says. “That’s why I went there, and I couldn’t be happier that I did.”
Kelly is among an estimated 75 percent of Americans who have at least a slight fear of the dentist, which is a major reason why sedation dentistry is growing. Sedation dentistry uses medication to help relax a patient prior to a dental procedure.
“We see a pretty wide cross section of people because we are a sedation practice,” says Eric N. Shelly, D.M.D., who purchased the practice in 1991 that includes Eric Fort, D.M.D., and Margaret Lee, D.M.D., who is Dr. Shelly’s wife.
“We tend to get a lot of patients who’ve avoided the dentist for a long time, and their needs are fairly significant, which puts us in situations to do comprehensive cases,” Dr. Shelly says. “Sedation helps those types of patients.”
Adds Dr. Fort: “Some people don’t see a dentist for 10 years and need a lot of work to get caught up. Sedation dentistry helps them relax and get the work done.”
According to Dr. Shelly, sedation is recommended for patients who tend to gag or those who are bothered by the smells, sounds and stimuli of a dental procedure.
During sedation dentistry, the patient is given an oral sedative an hour before a procedure, and additional medication can be given throughout the procedure as needed to obtain a level of sedation that will allow complex procedures to be performed in complete comfort. Because of the amnesiac properties of the medication, the patient will have little or no memory of the visit.
“Basically, we do general dentistry under sedation,” Dr. Shelly says. “More oral surgeons don’t do fillings with patients sedated. I’d say we probably have treated over 4,000 under sedation in our office. It relaxes the patients who need it.”
Dr. Shelly was awarded his Doctorate of Medical Dentistry from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. He obtained his license in oral sedation dentistry at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Patterson, N.J. He received further training through the Dental Organization for Conscious Sedation and the American Society for the Advancement of Anesthesia in Dentistry. His various affiliations include serving as president of Pennsylvania Academy of General Dentistry and as a member of the National Outreach Task Force for the Pennsylvania Academy of General Dentistry.
West Chester Dental Arts offers a full array of dental services to help patients maintain good oral health. The services include bonding, cosmetic contouring, crowns and bridges, specialty dentures, grafts, implants, veneers, teeth whitening, Invisalign, sealants, root canal therapy, extractions, flap surgery, dentures, and cosmetic dentistry.
“Yes, we perform sedation dentistry,” Dr. Fort says. “But I think what sometimes gets lost in that is we perform comprehensive dentistry. We see everybody. The allure is because we do sedation when patients need root canals or extractions in one setting. We provide all types of services.”
Dr. Fort joined Dr. Shelly’s practice in 2006 and became a partner in 2008. A West Chester native, Dr. Fort is a 2003 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine who earned his fellowship with the Academy of General Dentistry.
He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, and completed a one-year hospital-based general practice residency at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. He also participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, as well as being an integral member of Joint Task Force Katrina in support of hurricane relief efforts in the Gulf Coast region, which included providing dental care to numerous displaced citizens.
“I grew up in West Chester, so I’m familiar with a lot of our patients,” Dr. Fort says. “I’m seeing a lot of my friends, their kids and a lot of my friends’ parents. There’s a comfort level when patients come to us.”
Amy Stillman can testify to that. The 64-year-old West Chester resident sought out Dr. Shelly when she needed crowns, fillings and implants. She was apprehensive at first, but Dr. Shelly allayed her fears.
“Dr. Shelly is just a great doctor and a great man,” Stillman says. “He’s compassionate and caring. He reassured me every step of the way, even about getting sedation, which was wonderful. Choosing him was the best move I’ve ever made.”
West Chester Dental Arts
403 N. Five Points Road
West Chester, PA 19380