Sedation dentistry refers to the use of medication that can help patients relax while they are being treated during dental procedures. Some people refer to it as “sleep dentistry,” although patients are usually awake unless they have general anesthesia.
What Is Sedation Dentistry?
With sedation, the dentist administers a drug before or during the dental procedure. Only one type of sedation, general anesthesia, renders patients completely unconscious. The other forms help the patient relax without knocking them out completely.
Common Cases When You Need Sedation Dentistry
Patients usually opt for sedation dentistry for a number of reasons. Here are some examples of them.
Anxiety Related to Dental Procedures
A lot of people have dental anxiety, and in some cases, it prevents them from visiting the dentist at all. Whether it stems from a previous bad experience at the dentist, a sensitive gag reflex or simply discomfort at having dental staff in such close proximity to them, sedation dentistry can help quell anxiety so people get the treatment they need.
Pain is a concern for most people who visit the dentist — especially if they are having a major dental procedure such as a dental crown, root canal, tooth extraction or dental implant placement. Sedation dentistry can help ensure that pain is minimized during the procedure so that patients can remain comfortable.
Multiple or Extensive Dental Procedures
Sometimes, people have extensive dental damage, and they might need lengthy treatment to make the needed repairs. Most patients would not be able to bear the pain and discomfort that often comes from continuous treatment for an hour or longer. It can also be exhausting to sit in the dentist chair for prolonged treatment. Sedation dentistry can keep patients calm and comfortable during long procedures. This also provides reassurance to the dentist, allowing him or her to focus on the procedure knowing that the patient is comfortable. It also means that several treatments can be combined into just one visit to the dentist.
Sedation Methods for Your Dental Treatment
There are several sedation methods used by dentists. Some of them include the following.
If you opt for an oral sedative, you will get a prescription to take about an hour or so before your dental appointment. The medication is designed to help you relax so you feel less anxious about your procedure. With this method, you will remain fully awake. You should avoid operating a motor vehicle after oral sedation dentistry. So, you will need someone to drive you to and from your appointment.
IV sedation is sedation that is administered intravenously. This type of sedation dentistry can put you into varying states of consciousness. Some IV drugs will put you into a state referred to as “twilight sleep” which means you are sleepy but still aware of your surroundings. However, you might not remember much of the procedure afterward. Stronger IV drugs — known as general anesthesia — can put you into a deeper sleep until its effects wear off. After IV sedation, you will need someone to drive you home, and you may feel groggy for the rest of the day.
Nitrous oxide is a gas that is breathed in through a mask similar to an oxygen mask. The gas hits your system almost immediately so you can relax during your procedure. It wears off quickly with it’s effects wearing off soon after you remove the mask. So, you might be able to drive yourself home and return to your normal routine after your procedure.
Benefits of Sedation Dentistry
Phobia of the dentist is a common fear for many. It frequently leads people to put off routine dental treatment which often leads to the need for treating more serious problems. With sedation dentistry, patients can have effective dental treatment with minimal pain or discomfort. Even the most anxious patients can benefit from sedation dentistry to minimize their fear of the dentist.
Sedation dentistry removes a big reason people avoid going to the dentist: anxiety. There are different levels of anxiety with some patients feeling a bit nervous about undergoing even routine procedures. Other patients have full-blown fear that their dentist visit will be excruciatingly painful or that something will go horribly wrong. Any level of dental anxiety can keep people from getting the treatment they need. With sedation dentistry, patients can rest assured they will be comfortable during their procedure.
Many dental procedures are simply not comfortable, and some can be downright painful. Depending on whether you are having a tooth filled or a root canal, there is a level of sedation dentistry that can make the procedure virtually pain-free. With oral sedation dentistry or IV sedation dentistry, you probably won’t even remember much of the procedure which is appealing to many patients.
The Dentist Can Work More Quickly
Dentists have undergone many of the procedures they perform themselves, and they understand how it feels. They want you to be comfortable, and if they are concerned about whether you are feeling pain, this can slow down their work. When you are sedated, they won’t have to worry about how you are reacting to the procedure, so they can work more quickly. The quicker your dentist works, the quicker you are on your way and on the road to recovery.
What to Expect From Sedation Dentistry
What you can expect from sedation dentistry will depend on the type of sedation used. If you have a local anesthetic — which causes numbness to a localized area — you can expect that to wear off within a few hours of the procedure. You will be fully alert during your procedure. Your dentist will likely apply a bit of numbing gel to the area before inserting the needle.
Nitrous oxide is a fast-acting gas that you will breathe in through a mask over your mouth and nose. Its effects are almost instant, and you will feel relaxed immediately. Often called “laughing gas,” you might feel a bit giddy, but you will be alert and able to answer questions and so on during your treatment. You will feel very relaxed during treatment. You may be able to drive home and return to your normal day after treatment because its effects leave your system quickly after the mask is removed,
Oral sedation dentistry will relax you before and during the procedure, and you might feel a bit groggy for a few hours after the procedure. You may not remember much about what happened while you were undergoing treatment, although you will be awake. You should have someone drive you to your appointment and home, and you probably won’t want to return to work until the next day because the effects of the drug takes a while to leave your system.
Pediatric Sedation Dentistry
Pediatric sedation dentistry is useful for children who might have an extreme fear of the dentist. Pediatric sedation dentistry can help kids stay relaxed and still in the dentist chair if they are undergoing procedures that are lengthier than a routine examination or filling. Children with special needs or who have a difficult time staying seated might also benefit from pediatric sedation dentistry. For many kids, sedation dentistry can mean the difference between a stressful experience or a relaxed one which can form a negative opinion of dentists than can follow children well into adulthood.
Getting Dental Treatment with Sedation at West Coast Dental
Here at West Coast Dental, our highly-skilled dentists can advise you on the best course of dental treatment using sedation to suit your needs. Set up an appointment today.
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You may be wondering if sedation dentistry is a good option for you. Here are some frequently asked questions to help you make your decision.
What is used for sedation dentistry?
Nitrous oxide is a common sedation technique that causes a relaxed feeling during dental procedures. The effect wears off just seconds after the mask is removed, allowing patients to immediately resume normal activities.
Oral sedation is good for mild to moderate dental anxiety. Patients will take prescription medication about an hour before their appointment which will leave them feeling very relaxed. A lot of patients won’t remember the procedure because of the relaxing effects of oral sedation. Patients opting for oral sedation will need a ride to and from the dentist office because the medication lingers in the bloodstream for a few hours after they take the pill.
Intravenous (also called IV sedation) involves a sedative that is administered directly into the bloodstream. Patients may feel like they were asleep during the procedure, and a designated driver will need to take them home after their procedure.
What does dental sedation feel like?
Dental sedation feels a bit different depending on the type you get. Nitrous oxide will immediately provide a relaxed, almost euphoric feeling as soon as you breathe in the gas. With intravenous sedation, you’ll experience a calming effect, drowsiness, minor amnesia and tingling sensations within minutes of the drug being administered. Oral sedatives provide a milder experience, making you feel relaxed and pleasantly drowsy during your procedure.
How long does dental sedation last?
Other than nitrous oxide — which lasts only as long as you breathe in the gas — you can expect dental sedation to last anywhere from two to eight hours. The length of time will depend on the type, strength and level of sedation dentistry used.
Are there side effects of dental sedation?
Oral sedation is safe, and patients experience minimal side effects. Some patients might experience drowsiness, dry mouth and headache. Others might have fogginess or loss of memory of the dental procedure which is often a welcome side effect. These minor side effects usually resolve themselves in just a few hours. For most dental patients, the benefits of oral sedation dentistry far outweigh any adverse symptoms.
Nitrous oxide is safe and gentle enough to be used for pediatric sedation dentistry. The side effect most patients experience is uncontrollable giggling which is how it got its nickname of “laughing gas.” In rare instances, patients experience faintness or dizziness, blurry vision, sweating or shivering. These side effects are unusual, however, because of how closely the dosage is monitored.
Intravenous sedation causes most patients to fall asleep, and most patients are unaware of their surroundings while under this type of sedation dentistry. As the sedation is wearing off, patients could have dry mouth, lightheadedness, nausea or headaches. Patients need to bring along a designated driver because driving while the sedation is wearing off is incredibly unsafe.
Can I be sedated for tooth extraction?
Most patients will get a local anesthetic for tooth extraction. Called a “local anesthetic,” this will numb the area near the tooth that will be extracted. Some patients might also opt for other sedation dentistry during tooth extraction such as nitrous oxide or oral sedation dentistry. If dental surgery is going to be involved — such as the extraction of wisdom teeth — patients might also get IV sedation.
How do I tell my dentist that I want to get sedated for an upcoming dental treatment?
You should feel free to talk to your dentist about dental sedation options for your upcoming dental treatment. Be honest if you feel anxious about visiting the dentist or if you are fearful of dental procedures. Your dentist can talk to you about which sedation option might be best for you so you can get the dental treatment you need.