I visited Dr Antonia Paolella in March 2015, when I was experiencing toothache and my regular dentist (an excellent phobic patient specialist dentist whom I would highly recommend to anyone at the BUPA dental cenre in Bank - I have reviewed elsewhere on thsi site) was on leave and not able to see me for two weeks.
As a phobic patient, I did an internet search for dentists who specialise in this area and chose Dr Paolella specifically because of her focus on treating anxious patients.
Unfortunately, my experience was not positive and as somebody who has seen many dentists over the year, including many specialists in anxious patients, Dr Paolella's approach to a nervous patient fell far below what I would expect from an understanding and sympathetic practitioner.
Here are some examples of what I consider to be real failings on her part towards me as a nervous patient, which I'm sure other fellow phobics will identify with as causing further stress / anxiety:
- I was put in the dentists chair and made to wait there before Dr Paolella entered the room.
- When Dr Paolella entered she did not introduce herself, her opening words to me (not hello…) was "you look very defensive", because I had my arms crossed in the chair. I was not even clear on whether or not she was the dentist or another member of the team. She then moved into position behind me in the chair and started asking (from above me) what the problem was - at which point I realised it was the dentist.
- She was very condescending regarding the fact that I admitted I knew I needed a filling in the tooth which was causing the pain, but had been putting off making the appointment for the treatment (as it had not until that point been painful). I would not expect a dental phobic specialist dentist to embarrass a nervous patient about avoiding treatment.
- When she then inspected my teeth the phrase she used to describe the issue in the tooth causing the pain was "gross decay". This may be accurate dental terminology, but I have never had a dentist use this term before and it seems particularly unnecessary in the context of treating an anxious patient when other less unpleasant language would convey the information just as well.
- she did not take the time to explain what treatment she was going to provide, and when she was suddenly telling it was time to open up for an injection, I had to stop her and ask her to down tools to take a moment and actually go through what she was planning to do (the issues she identified were not as straight forward as just that 1 x filling). Her explanation was satisfactory when she did give it, but I was very unsettled by her intention to just get started until I stopped her and asked. I believe not providing adequate communication in this situation is pretty negligent all round to be honest, never mind when you are an anxious patient.
- At the end of the treatment, Dr Paolella rushed off and did not take even a few minutes to explain to me what the follow up treatment I needed involved. I barely had time to sit up, have the plastic dam she had clamped in around the tooth removed and rinse before she was half way out the door - I had to stop to ask her what the next steps were. She told me the nurse / receptionist would explain it (fair enough if she had another appointment to get to, but a better approach from someone claiming to specialising in phobic patients and making patients feel valued and respected, would have been to say "I'm sorry I have to rush off to another patient but X will be able to give you your treatment plan and answer any questions".
What I will say in all of this is that when I then saw my regular dentist for the rest of the treatment I needed (obviously I was NOT inclined to ever go back to Dr Paolella), she commented that the work Dr Paolella had done was of a high quality. ).
All in all, I was very disappointed that Dr Antonia Paolella claims to specialise in helping phobic patients and treatment them with respect, but in fact in my experience did no such thing.
I know from personal experience how debilitating dental phobia can be, and the time I have taken to provide this review is because I hope to help other phobics make a good choice about which dentist they see.
In my experience there are much more understanding, sympathetic practitioners in London.