pdf of this article


For more information about Dr. Willock’s work, contact:



861 Willow Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Telephone: (919) 942-2154
A holistic approach to oral health and wellness.

Dental Care Can Be
(and Ought to Be) Pain-Free

Does the very thought of going to the dentist frighten you, or at least create a good deal of unease?.

Dr. Willock counsels a patient about essential dental health care.

Do you get so anxious when it comes to caring for your teeth that you simply avoid getting regular dental care?

Is your fear, perhaps, the result of a painful dental experience in your childhood years?

Chapel Hill’s noted holistic dentist Dr. C. Michael Willock has vivid memories of dental pain in his early youth. “I’ve heard so many stories from my patients about when they went to the dentist as a child,” he says. “Often, they were put in a dental chair and ordered to sit down, shut up, and hold on. Many were strapped in place.

“I had these same dental experiences when I was a youngster—and they leave a mark,” he acknowledges. “These sorts of dreadful events are lodged in your psyche for a lifetime; we never forget them. They are filed away in our brains and reactivated when, as an adult, it’s time to see your dentist.”

Dr. Willock’s own childhood experiences at the dentist’s office shaped his approach, many years later, to working with children. “I want to be sure they have a good experience when they come to see me, because, good or bad, they are going to carry these early dental events with them for the rest of their lives.”

Many Options for Pain-Free Dental Care

Studies indicate that as many as 15 percent of adult Americans avoid seeing a dentist because of anxiety and fear, Dr. Willock notes. “If you are included in that number who have a fear of dental work, then be reassured that there are medications that can be used to calm your nerves. In this practice, we give the patient’s comfort the highest priority, using all available instruments, medications, and anesthetics to keep the patient safe, calm and pain-free.

“Included in this pain-relief arsenal, and highly effective for many, is nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas. The nice thing about laughing gas is that once you start breathing it, you’ll calm right down,” explains Dr. Willock. “You just mellow right out.

“And the minute I turn the gas off and turn up the oxygen, the body begins to flush the gas out. The patient’s head will clear up immediately, and within a few minutes he or she can head out the door and drive a car safely. Nitrous oxide is always my first choice to support a pain-free dental experience.

“If the patient is really nervous, I’ll give a prescription for triazolam, informing them to take one pill an hour before coming to the office,” explains Dr. Willock. “Just a quarter milligram tablet consistently provides a pain-free, dreamy dental experience. It just takes one tablet for two to three hours of very deep relaxation and light euphoria. An added benefit is the amnesiac effect of the medication: patients simply don’t remember the dental experience when they return to their normal waking state, even as they retain a degree of consciousness during the procedure. We call this ‘conscious oral sedation’ or ‘nap dentistry.’ If I ask patients to turn their heads to the left or right, they will respond normally. They’re aware, but deeply and wonderfully relaxed. This medication has a short half-life, so it’s out of the patient’s system in about three hours, but I do suggest rest and relaxation for the remainder of the treatment day.”

He adds that patients must sign a written document, promising not to drive a car and to bring a designated driver along to their dental appointment. “If they fail to do so, that day’s appointment is cancelled,” he says, or other pain-control options are considered.

During this sedation procedure Dr. Willock monitors the patient’s vital signs, including pulse and blood pressure. “The whole idea is to get the patient as comfortable as possible,” he says. “If a break is needed during the procedure, all the patient needs to do is raise a hand. He or she is in control at all times. My goal is to treat every patient just as I would like to be treated myself.”

A Holistic Approach to Dental Health

Dr. Willock is a traditionally trained UNC dental graduate. He continues his relentless pursuit of knowledge on behalf of his patients by attending educational conferences throughout the country. He is an accredited member of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) and completed an 83-hour post-graduate course in environmental medicine at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“The course was an eye-opening experience,” he notes. “I’ve known for a long time that we live in a highly toxic environment and this course took that knowledge to another level. We studied in-depth the impact that metals commonly used in dentistry, such as mercury, nickel, and cadmium, have on our bodies. We also spent a lot of time studying effective ways to detoxify the body. The problem of toxicity is pervasive and massive. The air we breathe, the water we drink, virtually all of the food we eat, and many of the other products we bring into our lives are, to some extent, toxic to humans, with reactions ranging from the apparent absence of symptoms to difficult, severe consequences.

“In my practice I endeavor to educate my patients so that they take control of their oral health and make their own, educated decisions. I inform them about the dangers of fluoride in toothpaste and water. Fluoride is a poison; it’s toxic. I never recommend using fluoridated toothpastes. I inform patients about the dangers of amalgam silver-mercury fillings and the benefits of composite resins and ceramics. If my patients want to do further research, I hand them an information sheet of recommended readings. Education is the key to well informed health decisions.”

As part of his studies, Dr. Willock became a student of homeopathy, specifically as it relates to oral health. He notes, “Many homeopathic remedies have been found to be effective in treating various dental conditions. All of the methods I study carry the seal of FDA approval. There are, in fact, fairly large numbers of homeopathic products designed specifically for dentistry.”

Dr. Willock recently attended a conference entitled “The Roots of Disease,” in Atlanta, where Dr. Stanley Levy, a board certified cardiologist and lawyer, spoke about the link between diseased, infected teeth and heart attacks. “According to this highly regarded specialist,” notes Dr. Willock, “basic research definitively supports a link between unhealthy teeth and heart attacks. Period. Statistically, people with poor dental care suffer from poor health in general, leading to shorter life expectancy. If fear is keeping you from getting proper dental care, rest assured that there are proven methods to calm your anxieties.”