All You Need to Know About Sedation Dentistry

dental treatment

If anxiety is making you think twice about getting dental treatment, you could be seriously jeopardizing your oral health and general well-being.

Fear about going to the dentist is a common issue. Research indicates that three in four people experience some level of apprehension about dental visits. Other studies show that up to 15 percent of people in the U.S. refuse to see a dentist because they’re too frightened.

Factors that lie at the root of dental anxiety include fear of pain and previous bad dental experiences. Although dental apprehension is based on irrational concerns, if you’re one of the many people who have this problem, your fears are all too real to you.

Advances in dentistry have led to a much greater emphasis on patient comfort, and modern dental sedation techniques offer a range of safe and effective options to put nervous patients at ease.

Dental sedation calms patients by slowing down reactions of the central nervous system. In most cases, you are aware of your surroundings but less responsive to what’s going on. Sedation also reduces the sense of pain.

Patients who may benefit from sedation dentistry include those with:

  • A general anxiety disorder.
  • A phobia linked to dental procedures.
  • An unpleasant experience with dental treatment in the past.
  • A small mouth can become tender during treatment.
  • Resistance to local anesthesia.
  • Sensitive nerves in the mouth.

The Different Levels of Dental Sedation

Sedation dentistry can be provided at different levels: minimal, moderate or deep sedation, and general anesthesia. The level that’s best for you depends on your treatment and the extent of your anxiety.

With minimal sedation, you are relaxed but awake. With moderate sedation, you probably won’t remember much of the procedure. Deep sedation entails the patient being on the edge of consciousness. A general anesthetic is the only form of sedation dentistry that renders the patient unconscious.

Sedation dentistry is sometimes referred to as sleep dentistry, but in most cases, this is misleading. Patients usually remain awake during sedation, with the exception of general anesthesia.

Dental sedatives are administered orally, intravenously or through inhalation.

Oral Conscious Sedation

With oral conscious sedation, a calming medication – typically benzodiazepine – is administered before treatment. You stay awake after taking the oral sedative but remain relaxed during the procedure.

Oral sedation can be administered at mild or moderate levels and is ideal for people who fear needles (belonephobia). An oral sedative is also less expensive than intravenous sedation and has fewer side effects.

Oral conscious sedation can help to eliminate anxiety about pain, vulnerability and discomfort, and the benzodiazepines used in sedation dentistry are not addictive and have minimal side effects. Oral sedation can also be combined with intravenous sedation.

Intravenous Sedation

With intravenous (IV) moderate sedation, a sedative is injected into a vein in the back of the hand or the arm. It works quickly and levels can be easily adjusted. The dosage will depend on your treatment and how long it will take.

IV sedation can be used to induce various degrees of consciousness in which the patient becomes less aware of what’s going on and will probably remember little about the procedure afterward. Intravenous sedation can also be used as a general anesthetic.

Nitrous Oxide

Minimal sedation with nitrous oxide (laughing gas) helps you to remain calm during treatment while you breathe a combination of the gas and oxygen through a mask, with your dentist controlling the levels.

The effects of nitrous oxide wear off quickly. In fact, according to the WebMD health information resource, nitrous oxide is the only type of dental sedation that may allow you to drive yourself home after the procedure.

Deep Sedation and General Anesthesia

Drug-induced deep sedation renders the patient almost unconscious. With general anesthesia, you stay asleep until the effects wear off or are reversed with medication.

Is Sedation Dentistry Safe?

There is always a risk with any type of sedation. An experienced sedation dentist will do everything possible to minimize the possibility of something going wrong. Ask your dentist about their training and experience in sedation dentistry, and make sure they are qualified to administer the type of sedation you will be getting.

To help determine whether sedation is appropriate, your dentist will ask you about your medical history and any medication you may be taking. You should receive a form detailing the risks of the procedure. Go over it carefully with your dentist.

During your sedation, your dentist should monitor your vital signs, including respiration and blood pressure, and have oxygen and drugs to reverse the effects if necessary.

Taking the Fear Out of Dental Treatment

Few people relish the prospect of dental treatment. While it’s natural to be somewhat apprehensive about any medical consultation or treatment, a visit to the dentist can strike fear into some patients, as they fret about possible discomfort and being in a position of vulnerability.

The various forms of sedation dentistry provide the solution to this problem, helping nervous patients to relax. While sedation provides an attractive option for anxious patients, it is essential if your level of anxiety has reached the extent of dental phobia (odontophobia).

Dental sedation can help you get through treatments such as tooth extractions, root canal treatment and implants. If your levels of anxiety are particularly high, your dentist may also consider sedation for routine work such as cleaning and X-rays.

While most dentists can administer sedation with pills or nitrous oxide, other types of sedation require special training, including intravenous sedation, when a dentist needs to be licensed by the Board of Dental Examiners. The American Dental Association (ADA) sets out guidelines on providing sedation and the training required.

If you are fortunate enough that a visit to the dentist doesn’t bother you that much, you will for most treatments probably only require a local anesthetic injected into the gums to numb your mouth.

At Sanford Dental Excellence, Dr. Mitrogogos takes the time to discuss treatment options with each patient. Dr. Mitrogogos is trained and licensed in conscious sedation dentistry. He will thoroughly discuss with you sedation dentistry options and help determine which option is right for you. Interested in sedation dentistry? Contact Sanford Dental Excellence today to get more information – we can address any questions and/or concerns you may have. We’re accepting new patients!

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