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 trip to the dentist is so anxiety provoking for many people that they prefer not to have any treatment. If the thought of seeing your dentist for a routine visit puts a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach, an anesthetic may be the solution to ease your anxiety. Sedation can be used for everything from invasive procedures to a simple tooth cleaning. It uses a combination of techniques, ranging from nitrous oxide or “laughing gas” to general anesthesia, to relax a patient during surgeries or otherwise uncomfortable appointments. For even the most severe dental phobias, there is no reason to avoid the dentist altogether.
What Is Sedation Dentistry?
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. The levels of sedation used include:
- Minimal sedation – the patient is awake, but relaxed.
- Moderate sedation (formerly called “conscious sedation”) – the patient may slur your words when speaking, and not remember much of the procedure.
- Deep sedation – the patient is on the edge of consciousness but can still be awakened.
- General anesthesia – the patient is completely unconscious.
How do I know if I am a candidate for sedation?
Your overall health, as well as physical and mental conditions you may be battling at the time, are important to be able to safely undergo certain types of sedation, especially in the dental office. Some of these conditions may require clearance from a physician: cardiac disease, hypertension, diabetes and respiratory diseases should all be addressed prior to a given type of sedation. Your dentist will take a thorough medical history and physical assessment before proceeding, and if need be, recommend a product to get home care on the right track. They may also ask you to receive medical clearance from your physician too.
What are the types of dental sedation?
- Laughing Gas: Probably the most common form of sedation in the dental office is nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas.” Also called inhalation analgesia, nitrous oxide does not put you to sleep, and is effective at reducing your anxiety about a dental procedure. It is very safe and provided in most dental offices. Local injections of anesthesia, which are still used in combination with nitrous oxide, now see consistent effectiveness, and some are practically painless. Nonetheless, the gas can be administered by a machine to further reduce the discomfort of the injection.
- Enteral Sedation: The next type of sedation comes in the form of a pill or liquid that you take orally. This is called enteral sedation. Like local anesthetics, oftentimes it is used in combination with nitrous oxide. You may still be awake, but not nervous about the dental work.
- IV Sedation: Intravenous (IV) sedation is another common method of anti-anxiety wherein the sedative is directly injected to a vein. This technique will allow the dentist to provide a deeper sedation, although you will still be awake but less aware of the procedure. The process requires recovery time after you leave the office.
- General Anesthesia: General anesthesia is a form of sedation by which you will be asleep for the entire procedure. It is practiced using drugs that are directly injected into a vein, along with the possible inhalation of a gaseous anesthetic. A thorough recovery time in the office may be required before leaving. This is often used when wisdom teeth are being removed.
Can any dentist perform sedation?
Although most dentists are qualified to administer nitrous oxide, other types of sedation require additional training, equipment and emergency supplies. And because the vast majority of the U.S. requires that the dentist have a sedation license to perform these techniques, not every office will provide the service you’d like. For this reason, some may choose to contract qualified physicians or dentists to come to their office to perform sedation for their patients.
How safe is sedation dentistry?
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.
If you have any questions about sedation dentistry, call Winning Smiles to schedule an appointment with your dentist – 716-332-2444.