Does even the thought of having your teeth cleaned—or having dental x-rays taken—make your entire body tense with fear? You’re not alone. We have to admit that a lot of people are so nervous and anxious about going to the dentist that they prefer not to have any treatment done at all. For such patients, sedation dentistry may be the right alterative. Sedation can be used for everything from invasive procedures to a simple tooth cleaning. How it’s used depends on the patient—and the severity of the fear.
What exactly is sedation dentistry?
Sedation dentistry uses medication to help patients relax during dental procedures. It’s sometimes referred to as “sleep dentistry,” although that term is not accurate since most patients are usually awake during the majority of dental procedures. The levels of sedation used include:
- Minimal sedation – the patient is awake but relaxed.
- Moderate sedation (formerly called “conscious sedation”) – the patient may slur his/her 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.
The types of sedation used in dentistry.
Inhaled minimal sedation.
The patient breathes nitrous oxide (also known as “laughing gas”), combined with oxygen through a mask that’s placed over the nose—to help him or her relax. The dentist can control the amount of sedation the patient receives, and the gas tends to wear off quickly.
Depending on the total dose given, oral sedation can range from minimal to moderate. Minimal sedation involves taking a pill. Typically, the pill is Halcion, a member of the same drug family as Valium, and it’s usually taken about an hour before the procedure. The pill will make the patient drowsy, although he or she is still awake. A larger dose may be given to produce moderate sedation. This is the type of anesthesia most commonly associated with sedation dentistry. Some people become groggy enough from moderate oral sedation to actually fall asleep during the procedure. However, they usually can be awakened with a gentle shake.
IV moderate sedation.
The sedative drug is administered through the patient’s vein, so it goes to work more quickly. This method allows the dentist to continually adjust the level of sedation.
Deep sedation and general anesthesia.
The patient receives medications that will make the patient either almost or totally unconscious (in a deep sleep) during the procedure. While he or she is under general anesthesia, the patient cannot easily be awakened until the effects of the anesthesia wear off or are reversed with medication.
Regardless of which type of sedation a patient receives, he/she will still typically need a local anesthetic — numbing medication at the site where the dentist is working in the mouth — to relieve pain if the procedure causes discomfort.
Who is a candidate for dental sedation?
Sedation is most appropriate for patients with a real fear or anxiety that prevents them from going to the dentist, but it may also be appropriate for those individuals who:
- have a low tolerance for pain
- can’t sit still in the dentist’s chair
- have very sensitive teeth
- have a bad gag reflex
- need a large amount of dental work completed
Sometimes, children are given sedation if they are terrified of going to the dentist or refuse to cooperate during the visit. Nitrous oxide tends to be a safe alternative for young patients, and just about any dentist can administer it. A smaller percentage of pediatric dentists are trained to give children oral sedation. Oral sedation can be safe when kept within the recommended dose for the child’s age and weight. At Crystal dental we work with Dental Anesthesiologists trained specifically in dental anesthesia to treat adults and children with dental anxiety. If you or your child has dental anxiety, a previous negative experience, is too young for local treatment, is special needs, etc we have experienced specialists to treat their dental needs.
How safe is sedation dentistry?
There is always a risk in getting anesthesia. However, it is generally safe, when administered by experienced dentists like you’ll find at Crystal Dental Centers. Certain people, however, 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. All our doctors work closely with your physician to ensure each patient is medically clear and safe to receive any form of sedation. All three Crystal Dental locations are fully trained and equipped to provide sedation dentistry to those patients who require it. To find out what type of treatment you may need —and learn more about the sedation dentistry options we offer — come in today or schedule an appointment for a consultation. Contact Us!