Relax. Literally. Sedation dentistry makes it easier than ever before to be calm and at ease in the dental chair, no longer gripping your arms with sweat pouring down your back!
What Is Odontophobia?
Odontophobia is a big name for a simple fear – fear of the dentist, dentophobia or dental anxiety. According to Peter Milgrom DDS, director of the Dental Fears Research Clinic at the University of Washington in Seattle and author of Treating Fearful Dental Patients, you are not alone. Approximately 5 to 8% of Americans avoid dentists because of their fears and 20% more will only go to the dentist when the situation gets dire. You may have suffered a bad experience as a child. Or as an adult, you went to the dentist and experienced excruciating pain.
No matter the reason, modern dentistry offers many new tools and options that make necessary dental treatments not only tolerable, but even comfortable using Sedation Dentistry.
What Is Sedation Dentistry?
There are generally four types of ways medications are delivered:
- Inhalation sedation (also known as “laughing gas”, “happy gas”, nitrous oxide, “gas and air”, relative analgesia). The gas helps you relax. Your dentist can control the amount of sedation you receive, and the gas tends to wear off quickly. This is the only form of sedation where you may be able to drive yourself home after the procedure.
- Oral sedation – involves taking pills or a liquid prior to your appointment. Depending on the total dose given, oral sedation can range from minimal to moderate. Most often the medications are in the “benzodiazepine” family” and are more commonly known as Valium, Halcion, Xanax, or Ativan. This is often referred to as conscious sedation therapy.A larger dose may be given to produce a moderate sedation. Most people become groggy but some people even fall asleep. They usually can, though, be awakened easily. Although this type of sedation dates back to the 1800s, new medications are more powerful and less likely to carry side effects.
- IV sedation – IV drugs administered into the bloodstream through an IV.
- Deep sedation or general anesthesia – You will get medications that will make you either almost unconscious or totally unconscious — deeply asleep — during the IV procedure. While you are under general anesthesia, you cannot easily be awakened until the effects of the anesthesia wear off or are reversed with medication.
Most of these sedations will be applied in conjunction with a numbing agent – a local anesthesia to pre-numb the area then a shot of novocaine to totally numb the area. The local anesthetic will temporarily block pain impulses from the affected tooth and gum tissue and should last one to two hours or longer.
The great news? With sedation dentistry, most people have no recollection of their dental appointment! An appointment that may last for hours will seem like only minutes. This is important for certain cosmetic dental procedures like smile makeovers that often take multiple visits but can be compacted into fewer, but longer, appointments.
With any type of sedation other than inhalation, you will need someone to drive you home after your appointment.
Who Should Take Advantage of Sedation Dentistry?
Sedation dentistry is best for people who:
- Have a low pain threshold
- Have sensitive teeth
- Have a bad gag reflex
- Need a large amount of dental work at a time
- Are anxious about going to the dentist
Sedation dentistry is not recommended for pregnant women or moms who are breastfeeding. Most children relax with inhalation sedation but in rare cases, oral sedation may be administered.
Who Provides Sedation Dentistry?
Most dentists can administer inhalation sedation. However, only a small percentage of dentists who have completed the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) program in deep sedation and general anesthesia can use these more complex techniques. Some dentists will use a dentist anesthesiologist, who is specially trained in administering all types of sedation to both adults and children.
Each state’s dental board carefully regulates the use of sedation techniques. Many states require dentists to hold permits in order to perform sedation.
Is Sedation Dentistry Safe?
Like with many medical procedures, there is always a risk. However, it really depends on the experience of the dentist. Certain people (obese or suffering from sleep apnea) need to be more careful than others. Tell your dentist about any allergies and make sure the dose is appropriate for your age and health. Your dentist should have both oxygen and medications on hand in case any ill effects need to be revered.
Too often we hear horror stories about dentists who wither do not administer the right dosage or have never been trained in best practices. Check your dentist our carefully so this does not happen to you.
Sedation dentistry has evolved to be an even more relaxing experience today, giving patients a good alternative to traditional methods of inhalation and IVs. The “no needle” approach used in conscious dentistry is by far the most popular, with few side effects. Sedation dentists realize that comfort is an important aspect of patient care and will work hard to thwart any anxieties you have.
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- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: 123rf.com
- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: 123rf.com
Dr. Jeffrey Pass, DDS, has been in private practice since 1987 and emphasizes cosmetic, restorative, and implant dentistry. A graduate of NYU College of Dentistry, Dr. Pass practiced privately in Manhattan, NY prior to establishing South Florida Dental Care in 1993. He regularly attends continuing education classes and is a member of the American Dental Association, South Florida District Dental Association, South Broward Dental Society, and the Florida branch of The Seattle Study Club.