Going to the dentist regularly is a necessary and vital part of maintaining the body’s health. For some people, however, the thought of visiting the dentist’s office can trigger extreme levels of anxiety. Sometimes high anxiety can even be an excuse not to make an appointment. Our practice offers several options to make the experience more comfortable and relaxing for even the most nervous individuals. With sedation dentistry, anxiety no longer needs to be a barrier to care.
Patients can take advantage of this option whether they are having a routine teeth cleaning, a filling, or a more complex procedure. The level of sedation can range from mild and temporary to general anesthesia, depending on the patient and procedure. Almost everyone experiences a little anxiety when it’s time to visit the dentist, but for some people, the anxiety can be so severe that oral hygiene and health are ignored causing dental problems and overall poor health.
Sedation dentistry allows our patients with severe anxiety and fear to receive the care and treatments necessary to maintain good oral health. Sedation dentistry relaxes patients so they are completely comfortable. The most important thing to understand about sedation dentistry is that it really works. The goal of sedation dentistry is to keep patients relaxed and comfortable for all procedures.
How does Sedation Dentistry work?
When patients receive a sedative medication it relaxes patients by slowing down the action of the central nervous system. Patients are still aware of their surroundings but they are less responsive to actual stimuli like material smells, and equipment sounds (most notably the sound of a drill). Sedatives are given to patients in several different ways including pills or liquids taken by mouth, and nitrous oxide (laughing gas) which is inhaled through the nose or administered intravenously directly into the bloodstream. Most sedation dentists use some form of oral sedative that is prescribed and taken about an hour before the scheduled appointment.
What kinds of sedation options do I have?
Perhaps the sedative agent most associated with the dentist is “laughing gas”, an odorless mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen. The gas is administered through a nasal cannula or mask and the ratio of nitrous oxide to oxygen is monitored by the dentist. Its effects include relaxation and mild euphoria, as well as a reduction in sensation of pain in soft tissues. Laughing gas can also help reduce the gag reflex. Typically, its effects wear off within minutes of discontinuing use.
For moderate anxiety, the patient is often prescribed a medication in liquid or pill form to be orally about an hour before the appointment. The effects will include a feeling of well-being, muscle relaxation, and drowsiness. The patient will remain alert to surroundings and able to answer questions. The effects can leave the patient feeling “cloudy” for hours after the procedure.
If a higher level of sedation is needed, medications can be administered intravenously (IV) by the dentist. This approach is more invasive but allows the dentist to precisely introduce medications to the bloodstream.
What happens after taking a sedative?
After a sedative is taken a patient generally feels calmer and more relaxed. The patient remains awake and alert, able to answer any questions the dentist may have, but less focused on sights, sounds and smells that might be negatively affect the patient.
Once the patient is feeling comfortable the dentist will begin the examination or treatment. In addition to creating a feeling of deep relaxation sedation can produce other effects. Time may pass quickly and often the patient will have only little or no memory of the office visit.
Our patients who use sedation dentistry are amazed by how well it works, and you will be too. Let us help you overcome your fears and get the dental care you deserve in complete comfort without fear or anxiety.
What about safety?
Having nitrous oxide administered briefly by a medical professional has very few side effects and will not interfere with other medications taken by the patient. It is safe to use in patients with impaired function of the liver or kidneys.
Aside from the possible exception of nitrous oxide, the other forms of sedation may leave the patient unable to drive safely at the end of the appointment. Always inform the dentist of any current medications being taken to avoid interactions. The patient should make arrangements for someone else to transport them home after their appointment.
If you suffer from anxiety during dental procedures, Sedation Dentistry might be for you. Please call us if you have further questions or to set up an appointment.