Does the thought of having your teeth cleaned make your entire body tense with fear?
Would you rather endure the agony of a toothache than step foot in a dentist’s office?
You’re not alone. A lot of people are so phobic about going to the dentist that they prefer not to have any treatment.
For people who avoid dentists like the plague, sedation dentistry may take away some of their anxiety. Sedation can be used for everything from invasive procedures to a simple tooth cleaning. How it’s used depends on the severity of the fear.
Sedation dentistry uses medication to help patients relax during dental procedures. It’s sometimes referred to as “sleep dentistry,” although that’s not entirely accurate. Patients are usually awake with the exception of those who are under general anesthesia.
You breathe nitrous oxide — otherwise known as “laughing gas” — combined with oxygen through a mask that’s placed over your nose. The gas helps you relax. Your dentist can control the amount of sedation you receive, and the gas tends to wear off quickly. This is the only form of sedation where you may be able to drive yourself home after the procedure.
Depending on the total dose given, oral sedation can range from minimal to moderate. For minimal sedation, you take a pill. Typically, the pill is Halcion, which is a member of the same drug family as Valium, and it’s usually taken about an hour before the procedure. The pill will make you drowsy, although you’ll still be awake. Some people become groggy enough from oral sedation to actually fall asleep during the procedure. They usually can, though, be awakened with a gentle shake. Our practice offers Oral Sedation.
You receive the sedative drug through a vein, so it goes to work more quickly. This method allows the dentist to continually adjust the level of sedation to fit your needs. Moderate sedation allows for the timing and amount of drugs to be tailored to your specific tolerance and procedure time. It is the most predictable method to ensure safety and constant moderate anesthesia for the entire procedure. Our practice offers IV Moderate Sedation.
You will get medications that will make you either almost unconscious or totally unconscious — deeply asleep — during the procedure. While you are under general anesthesia, you cannot easily be awakened until the effects of the anesthesia wear off or are reversed with medication. This is typically performed in a hospital or outpatient care setting under the supervision of an anesthesiologist.
Regardless of which type of sedation you receive, you’ll also typically need a local anesthetic — numbing medication at the site where the dentist is working in the mouth — to relieve pain if the procedure causes any discomfort.
Sedation is most appropriate for people with a real fear or anxiety that is preventing them from going to the dentist.
Sedation dentistry may also be appropriate for people who:
Sometimes, children are given sedation if they are terrified of going to the dentist or refuse to cooperate during the visit. Nitrous oxide tends to be safe in children, and just about any dentist can administer it.
Some dentists can administer minimal sedation (such as nitrous oxide or pills). A very small number of dentists can give moderate sedation, like we do here at Cedar Walk. Some dentists use a dentist anesthesiologist, who is specially trained to give all levels of sedation and anesthesia to both children and adults.
Each state’s dental board carefully regulates the use of sedation techniques. North Carolina require dentists to hold permits in order to perform sedation.
There is always a risk in getting anesthesia. It is usually safe, though, when given by experienced dentists. However, certain people, such as those who are obese or who have obstructive sleep apnea, should talk to their doctor before having sedation. That’s because they are more likely to develop complications from the anesthesia.
It’s important to make sure that your dentist is trained and qualified to administer the type of sedation you will be receiving. To be a smart patient, you should make sure the following things are done:
Before the procedure, your dentist should go over your medical history. Your dentist should also determine whether you are an appropriate candidate for sedation and ask about any medications you’re currently taking.
You should ask what dose of the sedative is appropriate for your age and health. You should also ask whether it is within the dose recommended by the FDA.
It’s important to find out how much training the dentist has and how many procedures he or she has performed using sedation. The more procedures the dentist has performed, the better.
You should receive a form detailing the risks of the procedure. Go over it carefully with your dentist. Ask questions if you’re unclear on any of the wording.
The dentist should monitor your vital signs during the procedure following the American Dental Association’s guidelines. The dentist should also have oxygen — artificial ventilation — and drugs that reverse the effects of sedation on hand in case you need them.