For lots of people, just the thought of going to the dentist is incredibly stressful and scary. Even if they just are going in for a routine checkup and cleaning, they feel so much anxiety and unease that they avoid the process altogether.
While avoidance may relieve a person’s fear of visiting the dentist, it is not doing their oral health or overall health any favors. If you are one of the many who suffer from dental anxiety, there are ways to overcome your issues so you can keep your teeth strong and healthy. Sedation dentistry is one of them.
What Is Sedation Dentistry?
Sedation dentistry refers to the use of medication to help a patient relax during dental procedures. In some cases, it is referred to as “sleep dentistry,” but this isn’t exactly accurate. Most people are awake and aware of what is going on when they get sedation dentistry. Only those who are under general anesthesia are fully “asleep.”
Various types of sedation can be used to keep you comfortable and relaxed while you undergo dental procedures. Your options include the following:
- Minimal Sedation – You are completely awake but are relaxed.
- Moderation Sedation – You may not remember much of the dental procedure and may slur your words when you talk.
- Deep Sedation – You will be on the edge of consciousness, but if you need to be awakened, you can be.
- General Anesthesia – You are completely unconscious during the appointment.
Different Types of Sedation
Sedation can be administered in a variety of ways, including the following.
This process is often used if you are looking for only minimal sedation. You will inhale nitrous oxide (also known as “laughing gas”) combined with oxygen from a mask that is placed over your nose. The dentist can control how much gas you receive, giving you just enough to feel relaxed.
Nitrous oxide wears off quickly, so once the procedure is done, the gas will be turned off. You may have to wait a few moments before you are allowed to leave, but you will be able to drive yourself home after having this type of sedation.
Taking a pill is another way to be sedated so that you feel more relaxed when you visit the dentist. Depending on the dose you take, this can be used for minimal or moderate sedation. The most common medication that is administered is Halcion, which is in the same family as Valium.
This medication is taken approximately 1 hour before the treatment, and it will make you drowsy. Depending on the dose, you may or may not fall asleep during the process. More often than not, a gentle shake will wake you back up.
An IV can be used to put a person under moderate sedation. Since the drug is administered directly into your vein, it is fast-acting. It also allows the dentist to adjust the level of sedation you receive.
This type of sedation will make you drowsy and may even put you to sleep, but—again—a gentle shake should wake you up. With IV sedation, you typically will not be able to drive yourself home after going through your dental procedure.
For this type of sedation, you will be given medication that will make you almost completely unconscious or put you to sleep. You may need assistance breathing while under general anesthesia.
A gentle shake will not wake you out of this sleep, and you’ll have to wait until the medication wears off or you are administered more medication to counteract the anesthesia. If you undergo this type of sedation dentistry, you may feel groggy for the rest of the day, and you will not be allowed to drive after the procedure.
Who Can Sedation Dentistry Benefit?
Sedation dentistry is most beneficial for people who have deep fear or anxiety about going to the dentist. If this fear has prevented you from going to the dentist in the past—even for regular checkups—then you might want to look into sedation dentistry. Regular dental visits are imperative to ensure that your teeth and gums remain healthy.
Not only that, but it has been found that issues with your mouth can lead to physical health problems. If you suffer from gum disease or periodontal disease, it could increase your risk of pulmonary infections, cardiovascular issues, stroke, and diabetes.
Others who might benefit from sedation dentistry include the following:
- People with a low pain tolerance or sensitive teeth
- Those who find it hard to sit in the dentist’s chair
- Those with an overactive gag reflex
- People who need a lot of dental work done
Sedation dentistry can be safe and effective. Nitrous oxide is gentle enough that it can be administered to children who might be fearful of the dentist, and the vast majority of dentists have the skills and ability to administer it.
Can All Dentists Offer Sedation Dentistry?
Most dentists can offer mild sedation, either in the form of nitrous oxide or pills. A smaller percentage of dentists can offer moderate sedation, and an even smaller percentage are allowed to offer deep sedation or general anesthesia.
To qualify for deep sedation, a dentist has to complete the Commission on Dental Accreditation program. More often than not, if a dentist has completed this program and is allowed to administer deep sedation and/or general anesthesia, they are an oral and maxillofacial surgeon or a dental anesthesiologist.
Also, the state in which a dentist is practicing may have their own rules and regulations when it comes to sedation dentistry. Commonly, dentists have to hold a permit or be licensed to administer sedation.
Is Sedation Dentistry Safe?
When administered by an experienced dentist, sedation techniques are usually very safe. If you struggle with certain health issues such as obesity or sleep apnea, you will need to discuss these with your dentist before determining if sedation is an option for you.
There’s no longer a reason to fear going to the dentist. Sedation dentistry may be just what you need to feel calm and relaxed so that you can take care of your teeth! Dr. John Paul Gallardo, a renowned dentist and periodontist in Miami, is pleased to offer his patients sedation dentistry. Call 305-547-8687 today to request an appointment.