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What is Sedation Dentistry?

January 30, 2021

Dentists are licensed oral and dental professionals. And yet, more often than not, people associate their dentists with an entirely different type of specialty: Pain.

Dentistry has come a long way since the days of pliers and agonizing procedures. Most modern dentists now practice quick, easy, and painless dentistry using state-of-the-art technology and effective medicines and treatments.

Still, many people struggle to move past negative stereotypes surrounding dentists: According to the American Dental Association, approximately 22 percent of Americans avoid making and keeping their dental appointments because they’re afraid of the dentist.

So that such people with high dental anxiety can receive the care they deserve comfortably and anxiety-free, many practitioners now offer sedation dentistry, a safe and commonly used practice that allows patients to be sedated or, in some cases, completely asleep during dental procedures.

Here’s everything you need to know about sedation dentistry and the benefits it may offer you.

How Does Sedation Dentistry Work?

Sedation is the process by which irritability, anxiety, and agitation are reduced through the administration of sedative drugs. It is commonly used during medical, diagnostic, and dental procedures to keep patients calm and comfortable. Most forms of sedation begin working immediately and make lengthy procedures go by in what feels like a matter of minutes. And while you’re relaxing, your practitioner will monitor you and your vitals and continue to adjust any dosages as necessary.

Dentists typically use sedation during complex and/or lengthy procedures, such as root canals, extractions, and oral surgeries, which can produce distressing experiences for many people even after receiving local anesthetics to ensure they feel no sharp or sudden pain. In particular, sedation dentistry is beneficial for the following candidates:

  • Those who have a fear or anxiety of visiting the dentist.
  • Those who have a fear of pain, needles, or blood.
  • Those who have difficulty, physically or otherwise, sitting still for long periods of time.
  • Those who have difficulty getting and staying numb from anesthetics.
  • Those with strong gag reflexes.
  • Those with small mouths that begin to hurt after long periods of opening.
  • Those with jaw pain.
  • Those who need more extensive and otherwise painful procedures or need multiple procedures done at a time.

Types of Sedation Dentistry

Various methods of sedation methods that range in purpose, and thus strength, exist for sedation dentistry. Depending on your condition and level of anxiety, the treatment you are undergoing and its length, and your preference, your dentist will recommend a sedation method that’s right for you.

Most typically, your dentist may offer the following sedation methods.

Nitrous Oxide

The mildest and most common form of sedation, nitrous oxide, or more commonly known as “laughing gas,” is administered orally or through inhalation using an apparatus that’s placed over your nose. While under, you will remain conscious and be able to breathe freely on your own, but will experience complete relaxation while your dentist completes your procedure.

Once your dentist administers this gas, you will begin to feel the effects as soon as 30 seconds after you begin to breathe it in. Patients commonly feel sensations of tingling, numbness, and overall relaxation and well-being while sedated.

Your dentist will control the amount of sedation so you need and, as soon as they’ve completed their services, they will turn the gas off and its effects will begin to fade just as quickly as they first began working. This is the only form of sedation that allows you to drive yourself home after your procedure.

Oral Sedation

A moderate form of sedation, oral sedatives come in the form of a pill that falls under the same family of drugs as Valium. This pill is prescribed to you before your appointment. You simply need to pick it up from your pharmacy, take it at the assigned time, and then have someone drive you to and from the office.

A sedative pill will make you drowsy and slightly lower your level of consciousness, but you will still be awake, capable of breathing on your own and retaining your reflexes and ability to respond to verbal and physical cues. Some people relax enough to fall asleep on this pill but they can usually be awakened with a light shake or tap on the shoulder. Although you may notice a diminished sense of pain, sounds, and smells, these side effects will fade as your body processes the drug.

IV Sedation

To the most anxious patients, your dentist may offer intravenous (IV) sedation, which comes in the form of an injection directly into the bloodstream. There are several variations to IV sedation: Under moderate forms, you remain conscious but mostly unaware of your surroundings. However, under deep IV sedation, better known as general anesthesia, you fall asleep and remain unconscious until the procedure is done. In either case, you will remain drowsy and physically unsteady for several hours, so you’ll need someone to drive you to and from the office.

Given the relative intensity of IV sedation compared to other forms of sedation, dentists typically only administer this method for invasive or extensive oral surgery procedures such as extractions, pulling of wisdom teeth, or dental implants. Some patients may require breathing assistance while under deep sedation, but fear not: Your dentist or oral surgeon will monitor your breathing and your vitals so you remain safe and completely asleep throughout the procedure.

Sedation Dentistry in the Woodlands, North Houston, Conroe, Spring, and Montgomery Areas

If you have anxiety about going to see the dentist, you aren’t the only one. And, thanks to these various forms of sedation dentistry, there’s no need to tough out fearful or painful experiences that will only exacerbate your fears.

Carrie Muzny D.D.S. is ready to partner with you to make your dental experience as safe, effective, and pleasurable as possible. Prepared with all three methods of sedation, we will work with you compassionately and diligently to put all your worries to rest while delivering top-quality care and customer service.

Contact us today to find out which of our services can benefit you!

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