Some patients experience a level of fear about dental care that is so paralyzing that they can’t even consider coming to our office for treatments. In some cases, this anxiety may even prevent patients from seeking routine care like exams and cleanings. Ironically, this fear can actually be self-perpetuating, if the patient delays care until an urgent problem develops, requiring an involved and invasive intervention.
Fortunately, patients can overcome this fear with sedation. Sedation dentistry helps our guests reach a state of deep relaxation during appointments, allowing them to tolerate treatment. Our practice offers a variety of sedation delivery methods to make your experience as comfortable as possible.
We recognize that different patients will have different needs, so we offer multiple sedation delivery methods. Laughing gas, also known as nitrous oxide, is a mild sedative that the patient inhales in gaseous form via a mask throughout the appointment. Nitrous oxide takes effect quickly and is associated with minimal side effects.
IV sedation has a stronger effect, as the sedative is delivered directly to the bloodstream. Patients who are fearful of needles may consider oral sedation as an alternative to IV sedation. We offer IV sedation by special arrangements only.
The dentist will prescribe medication from an anti-anxiety class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which help to relax the patient and dull the senses. The patient takes the medication prior to the appointment, so it is necessary to have someone drive you to our office if you choose this option.
You may be surprised to learn that you actually remain awake while you are under sedation, although you are deeply relaxed and should not experience any discomfort or unpleasant sensations during the appointment. Some providers refer to this practice as “sleep dentistry,” but that is a misnomer because patients are conscious and able to respond to commands from the dentist, which makes it easier to provide treatment. Additionally, the patient’s airway continues to function normally, which makes conscious sedation safer than general anesthesia. The sedative agents also have amnestic effects, so patients have no recollection of treatment after the appointment.
Prior to your appointment, your dentist will give you instructions to prepare. If you are using oral sedation, you will receive a prescription to fill at your local pharmacy and you will be directed to take the medication in advance of the appointment to give it time to take effect. If you are having IV sedation, you will need to fast for a period of time prior to your appointment. You also will need to make arrangements for someone to escort you home, as the effects of the sedatives may not be fully reversed by the time you leave our office.
Dental anxiety and phobia are tremendously common, with estimates of up to 75 percent of the American population experiencing some degree of this fear that prevents them from seeking dental care. The specific fear may vary from patient to patient. Some people aren’t comfortable with the lack of control they feel while in the dentist’s chair, while others may have a significant fear of pain. Patients with a strong gag reflex may also develop a dental phobia. Sedation can help patients overcome all types of fear that could interfere with them getting treatment to preserve their oral health.
Conscious sedation uses medications to help patients achieve a state of deep relaxation to make it easier for them to tolerate dental work. However, patients do remain awake – although in a sleep-like state – throughout the appointment. This is generally considered to be safer than general anesthesia, which renders the patient unconscious and requires artificial airway maintenance. The patient also can respond to directions from the dentist, which makes it easier to provide treatment.
In addition to helping patients relax, sedation also alters the patient’s sense of the passage of time, so they may be able to withstand longer treatment sessions while under the effects of sedation. This can benefit patients who are facing complex, time-consuming treatments even if they’re not particularly anxious.
Laughing gas is another name for nitrous oxide, a mild sedative agent that is inhaled throughout the appointment. Laughing gas has been used in dental medicine for decades. It is safe and quick-acting. Its effects also reverse soon after the mask is removed. Laughing gas can help to sedate patients for a variety of dental procedures.
The cost of sedation dentistry will vary depending on the type of sedation chosen and whether the patient can use any medical or dental insurance coverage to defray any of the associated costs. We can discuss this aspect of your treatment with you in greater detail at your consultation.