Unlike general anesthesia where a patient is completely unconscious, asleep, and unable to respond, patients under Conscious Sedation, are able to respond to commands and breath on their own.
Sedation Dentistry refers to the way dentist’s manage patients who have:
- High fear of needles or going to the dentist
- Traumatic dental experiences
- Difficulty getting numb
- Significant gag reflex
- Very sensitive teeth
- Complex dental problems
- Limited time to complete dental care
- Are bothered by the noises, smells and taste associated with dental care
- Are afraid or embarrassed about their teeth
There are four primary ways that Sedation is administered in the dental office:
IV Conscious Sedation Dentistry
Used by our specially trained and certified dentists, IV Conscious Sedation administers medication directly to the bloodstream. Since IV sedation requires such specified training and is strictly overseen by our State Board of Dentistry, we are among just 4 to 6% of dentists nationwide that routinely use this method in our practice. The advantage of this method is that the doctor can easily and instantaneously administer more medication if the patient is insufficiently sedated. Additionally, the drugs used intravenously are more effective than the same medications taken by mouth, which means that this technique is associated with more profound amnesia.
Also called pill sedation, this method involves simply taking a pill before the procedure. While used heavily by less-trained dentists due to ease of use, pill sedation is not reliable on its own and does not result in full amnesia. Additionally, the results can vary from patient to patient, making it hard to predict the effects. Although it typically uses many of the same medications as IV sedation, the pills take much longer to absorb, so this method requires a long delay in cases where more medication is needed. Since oral sedation is less effective and more unpredictable, we prefer to use it only as a mild relaxer if needed.
Inhalation Conscious Sedation | Nitrous Oxide/Oxygen Sedation
Nitrous Oxide, or Oxygen Sedation, is popularly known as laughing gas and is the most common method of sedation for most dentists. It is given through a small breathing mask that is placed directly over the patient’s nose, allowing them to inhale the gas. With this method, the patient retains normal bodily functions and can breathe independently. This method has the benefits of being simple to administer and having very few side effects, as well as being quickly removed from the body after the procedure. However, it does leave the patient awake and produces no memory loss, making it best for patients with mild anxiety who simply wish to take the edge off.
One of the most advanced methods offered by dentists today, computer-generated anesthesia uses a tiny needle to painlessly deliver the anesthetic to precise locations. The computer tracks the flow of the medication to deliver the correct amount to be both comfortable and effective while also being easily adjustable. Highly-trained dentists can use this method to provide a precise enough dose to anesthetize a single tooth, but it can also be used more broadly in larger areas of the mouth. This leaves the patient fully conscious and awake but completely eliminates pain during the procedure.
Sedation Dentistry FAQs
What is a sedative?
A sedative is a broad term for medications that produce a calming, relaxing, or sleeping effect. They are becoming widely used in dentistry to produce a more efficient and effective treatment session without pain or anxiety.
Are there side effects to taking sedatives?
Most side effects to sedatives are either desirable, such as amnesia regarding the procedure, or residual, such as continued sleepiness for several hours after the procedure. Occasionally, though, there may be problematic drug interactions, so it’s important to discuss your other medications with your dentist before the procedure.
What will I experience after taking sedatives?
Most patients become very calm and relaxed shortly after sedation begins. Depending on the dose of the sedative, you may find yourself relatively alert still or very sleepy. In most cases, the sedative will make the time seem to pass very quickly and will likely leave you unable to remember much or all of the procedure.
What special training should my doctor and the staff have in order to administer sedation?
In most areas, sedation dentists are required to be trained or specially permitted. There are a number of private organizations such as DOCS Education that provide thorough training in sedation. In some cases, the full dental team is required to have training in sedation in order to be adequately able to monitor care and respond to emergencies.
Do I need to prepare for the sedation?
Your preparation will depend on the medication used. In some cases, you’ll need to avoid food or water on the day of the procedure. You will probably also need to arrange for someone to drive you to and from your appointment, since you may be too groggy to drive safely after your visit. During your initial consultation, we will fully review the steps you’ll need to take before your sedation dentistry procedure.
What will the recovery be like?
In most cases, patients should plan to take the remainder of the day to rest and recover, although the exact length of time will depend on both the sedation method and the procedure. You’ll need to avoid driving or operating machinery for a full 24 hours in most cases, and you should take particular care to remain hydrated.