Time to Relax
With a deft hand and extensive training in sedation dentistry, Dr. David Stall of Four Star Smiles Dental Care makes fear of the dentist a thing of the past
by Daniel Sean Kaye

Have you avoided going to the dentist because you’re afraid of needles? Maybe you’ve had bad experiences before or suffer from a terrible gag reflex. Perhaps you’re too busy with traveling for your job, or can’t seem to get numb, or don’t like the noise of the drill or the smell of a dental office. Maybe you are simply too embarrassed to show your mouth because of years of neglect.

Sedation dentistry can help with all that. Gone is the anxiety and worry, replaced by total comfort, peace of mind and true relaxation.

“Sedation is used for many reasons,” explains David E. Stall, D.M.D., whose practice, Four Star Smiles Dental Care, has been serving the West Chester area since 1985 and has been offering sedation dentistry for the last seven years. “We found there were a lot of patients avoiding having treatment done, through fear of pain and other reasons. They were walking around with horrible problems, waiting until they had no choice. But by then the solutions were extreme. For the patients who are severely phobic, it’s hard to even get them in the door.”

Seeing a need, and with hardly any other dentists in the area providing sedation, Dr. Stall decided to learn more about the service. In 2004 he began the required 80-hour hospital-based course Pennsylvania requires for sedation-dentistry certification. He also received his Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certificate, another requisite for performing this work. After receiving his temporary sedation accreditation, his office was officially certified by a series of oral surgeons who watched him perform. Once they completed their report saying that he was accomplished in the processes, the temporary certificate became permanent. The entire process also must be renewed every five to six years, and continuing education is required for the yearly maintenance of the certificate.

That was all well and good for Dr. Stall, who has taken more than 1,800 hours of continuing dental-education courses since 1983. The way he sees it, improving his standing in the dental community is just part of life. In addition to being a past clinical instructor in restorative and cosmetic dentistry at the University of Pennsylvania, he mentors other dentists in areas relating to implant and restorative dentistry. In 1989 he received the prestigious Academy of General Dentistry Fellowship Award, given to those dentists who have shown dedication to patient care through continuing education.

Sedation training has enabled Dr. Stall to offer his patients multiple options, from the basic headphones with music, to nitrous oxide, to oral medication to IV medication. His office does not do general anesthesia and sedates only patients who are ages 17 and older. “The sedation technique removes all anxiety and apprehension, and offers different options,” he says. “I like IV because I can give them as much or as little as they need to make them comfortable. Everyone has a different tolerance level.”

During the sedation, the patient enters a twilight sleep of moderate conscious sedation. They’re asleep but relaxed and can give full responses to the doctor and his team. Their vital signs are closely monitored and, when they awaken, there’s a compression-of-time effect.

“They really don’t remember a thing, and the multiple-hour appointment seems much shorter,” says Dr. Stall. “By doing this, we can fix big problems in a visit or two. And after we get most of the work done, in the future they might be able to just have the nitrous or even a pill ‘cocktail.’ Then they’re not so anxious coming in. All the patient needs to do is have a friend or family member to drive them to the office and home after the appointment.

“Using sedation offers many benefits for the patient beyond the initial anxiety,” he continues. “When sedated, you can get in and get it done; four, five, six hours and you’re done. Then they don’t have to come in for visit after visit. My staff and I love doing this, because we’re helping people more than they could have been helped otherwise.”

Dr. Stall also found that having a friendly, calming, soothing staff and office was a crucial step in helping patients deal with their fears. “We make sure we get to know them first,” he says. “We learn what set them off, what causes the anxiety.”

Although the practice doesn’t do sedation every day, it has become a source of comfort for many patients. “We might do IV sedation once a week and offer the sedation pill cocktail,” says Dr. Stall. “The thing is, there is a need for this sedation. We can tell from the referrals we get from specialists and our other patients. If it gets them in here to get the work done before it becomes something difficult to manage, then we’re happy to do it.”

In addition to sedation dentistry, Four Star Smiles Dental Care provides complete family, cosmetic and implant dentistry. No matter the reason for the tooth loss—ineffective dentistry, lack of dental care, periodontal disease, etc.—Four Star Smiles Dental Care can provide permanent tooth replacement with the use of implant technology, painlessly restoring and permanently anchoring missing teeth. Feeling and looking like real teeth, dental implants can also support dentures and bridges, allowing the patient to comfortably chew any type of food and confidently smile again.

“If you fear the dentist, you’re not alone,” Dr. Stall assures. “That’s why we have these options. We understand your fears and can help you through this. Our dental assistants will even hold your hand if you want them to.”

Four Star Smiles is located at 1646 West Chester Pike, Suite 1, in West Chester. To see if you are a candidate for sedation dentistry, call 610-692-8454 or 877-4-StarSmiles (877-478-2776). For more information, visit www.fourstarsmiles.com.

Rob Hall is a photographer in Plumsteadville.