Not everyone enjoys going to the dentist – in fact, most people do not. Fear of pain, discomfort, or sharp dental tools can cause extreme anxiety before appointments, or even result in patients avoiding dental treatment altogether. Modern dental providers are understanding of this fear, especially in older patients who may have multiple dental issues to address. Using several methods of sedation dentistry, dentists have encouraged individuals to get back into the chair, significantly increasing the rate of good oral health and hygiene.
What Is Sedation Dentistry
Sedation dentistry involves any dental procedure performed under a sedative. In the past, sedation was used only for more severe treatments such as extractions and root canals. However, as dental needs in patients have changed, some providers now offer sedation dentistry for simple procedures such as annual cleanings. Sedatives can be provided to patients in various forms depending on their body composition and the procedure to be performed. The goal of sedation dentistry is to relax patients and to numb the areas of the mouth where dental treatment is needed. Dependent on the sedation level required for each patient, a dental anesthesiologist may be required to administer stronger doses of sedation than just a ‘tingly’ numbness.
What Are The Benefits of Sedation Dentistry
Sedation dentistry is an excellent solution for patients who typically skip their dental appointments due to fear or stress. Patients benefitting the most from sedation dentistry techniques may have:
- Phobias of dental tools and needles
- Multiple dental treatments needed in a visit
- Troubles becoming numb with traditional numbing solutions
- Anxiety or panic disorders
- Negative past experiences with dental providers
- Sensitive or uncontrollable gag reflux
- Tooth and gum sensitivity
- Developmental disabilities, such as Autism
By providing these individuals with a worry-free solution to attending their appointments, patients receive the best quality oral care without the added stress.
What Levels of Sedation Dentistry Are Available
Some patients are uncomfortable with the idea of being completely unconscious in the dental chair. Others would prefer to have a healthy mouth without ever knowing how! To provide comfortable services for all patients, there are three sedation levels available for patients to choose from:
For patients who only need slight relaxation during a procedure, or for anxious patients enduring more extended procedures, mild sedation is used and administered typically in an oral form. Patients remain awake during their procedure but feel incredibly relaxed and able to sleep if they desire.
Patients who require complex procedures or experience mild anxiety due to dental treatments may opt for moderate forms of sedation. These methods result in deep relaxation, usually administered through IV sedation directly into the bloodstream for quick results. It can take some time for the sedatives to subside, so the patient typically is unable to drive themselves home.
The goal of deep sedation is to ensure the patient has little to no consciousness of what is happening during the dental procedure. Deep sedation techniques result in patients unable to respond to others and often require the presence of a loved one during and after the appointment for transportation/support.
What Types of Sedation Dentistry Are Available
Each patient is unique. Therefore not all individuals react the same to sedation. Factors contributing the type of anesthetic appropriate for a patient will depend on body weight, allergies, dental treatment needed, etc. Your dentist and the dental anesthesiologist will decide the best course of treatment after evaluating your medical history to determine what the best sedation course will be for your procedure.
Types of sedation possible include:
Typically referred to as ‘laughing gas’; Nitrous Oxide is a gas form of sedation inhaled by a patient before a procedure. Combined with oxygen, this sedation quickly relaxes patients during dental procedures. Nitrous oxide helps relieve pain, providing a tingly feeling with a slight alteration to awareness of time and place. This method is mild, used more often with patients who require pain relief as oppose to a solution for anxiety and fear of the dentist.
Intravenous Anesthesia, or IV Sedation, is administered through injection into the bloodstream. It is known as a moderate sedative but will cause patients to feel as if they slept through their dental treatment. Intravenous anesthesia is used for short procedures, with immediate effects after administration due to entering the blood. Patients can experience drowsiness after waking from intravenous anesthesia, so bringing a friend or family member to drive you home is extremely important.
Another form of injecting sedation into the body is Intramuscular Anesthesia. Instead of injection into the bloodstream, a needle is inserted into the muscle of the upper arm or thigh. Effects of this type of sedation are just as effective as intravenous anesthesia but may take slightly longer work since they are not directly inserted into a vein.
For patients who are afraid of needles, IV sedation is not an option. In these cases, there are several oral sedation techniques appropriate for calming these patients before their treatment. Benzodiazepines are a common oral sedative that provides patients with a sleepy, relaxing feeling in the dental chair. While feeling the effects of this sedation, patients are unaware of smells, sounds, or sights around them. This presents the perfect setting for patients triggered easily by their surroundings, allowing them the opportunity to sleep during their appointment if they choose.
What Are the Risks of Sedation Dentistry
The most common side effects reported by patients who undergo sedation dentistry is the feelings of sleepiness or grogginess once the sedative begins to wear off. Even if you have experienced sedation dentistry in the past, it is always important to bring a designated driver with you to the appointment in the case you are too tired to drive home. To decrease the chances of adverse side effects of sedation, only licensed professionals are permitted to administer these medications. Patients are continuously monitored during the procedures while under sedation to watch for any abnormal reactions that could occur. Medical history is also examined before administering any drugs to rule out possible allergic reactions to the sedatives.
If you have concerns regarding your reaction to sedation dentistry, discussing these with your dental provider is essential before receiving any form of medication.
Where Do I Find Licensed Sedation Dentists
Choosing a dentist to provide sedation dentistry should not be done without the proper research. Not all dentists are qualified to administer every type of sedation technique. If you know you or a loved one will require a deep sedation, you will want to ensure your provider is a licensed dental anesthesiologist through your state’s Board of Dental Examiners. These providers are specially trained to deliver sedative medicine and educated on monitoring patients in an altered state of consciousness. To find a dentist in your area who is legally licensed in the field, contact your insurance company for a list of approved providers.
There is a lot to consider when looking into sedation dentistry. However, the benefit of receiving the best quality dental treatments, worry-free of pain and anxiety, makes the effort of searching for the right provider well worth your while.