Some folks would rather suffer through the dull pain of eternal toothaches than actually sit down in the dentist’s chair and have them taken care of. That’s usually due to dental anxiety, which is actually a quite common phobia recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (often called the DSM-IV for short). But it makes no sense to let your fear of the dentist keep you in pain. That’s part of the reason why sedation dentistry has become such a booming business.
What is sedation dentistry?
You might have experienced going under the influence of nitrous oxide, also known as “laughing gas,” in the dentist’s office. This is a form of sedation dentistry that leaves the patient impaired only for the time of the procedure itself. Other forms include taking a dose of Halcion or Valium to induce drowsiness, or being hooked up to an IV that pumps a sedative directly into your blood. All these treatments are done in order to minimize the impact of emotional trauma you may feel because of the looming dental work about to occur. In short, they help you relax.
What are my conscious and unconscious sedation dentistry options?
In general, there are three distinct levels of sedation that a dental patient would receive before any procedure that might require it: minimal sedation, where the patient’s anxiety level decreases but he or she is still alert enough to respond, allowing for a more relaxing experience; moderate sedation, where a higher dose of sedative is used, resulting in decreased alertness, physical function and memory of the procedure itself; and deep sedation, where the patient is barely conscious and may not be able to respond to any kind of verbal or physical stimulation.
What types of procedures can it be used for?
Imagine you elect to get a dental implant embedded into the bone socket of missing tooth. That’s likely going to be a bit painful, right? The sedative takes care of your worry level, allowing you to relax while the dentist goes to work inside your mouth. This is all on top of local anesthesia usually applied directly to the area where the dentist will be working. Certain surgeries (wisdom teeth extraction, root canals, etc.) may in fact require the patient to go completely under due to general anesthesia, too. So, as you can see, it’s all very much dependent on the type of procedure you’re facing.
What about my kids? Is it safe for them?
That’s definitely something you’ll want to go over with your dentist. Both preventative and cosmetic family dentistry are great services, but they always need to be age-appropriate when it comes to major procedures. Ask your dentist what kind of sedatives are being used and in what dosages. Explore alternative options before locking in to one decision for treatment. Most of all, the point of sedation dentistry is to make you comfortable in the chair. If you’re uncomfortable, think twice about receiving any sedatives.