When deep breaths and a relaxing playlist won't suffice to keep you calm at the dentist, or if you need a more complicated dental procedure including oral surgery, sedation dentistry can help. With several tiers of effectiveness, there is an option for every procedure and nervous patient. Sometimes called "sleep dentistry" (although this isn't entirely accurate), sedation for a dental procedure involves medication to help patients relax.
When you are scheduling a dental implant, crown, cavity filling, or even a routine cleaning, it is important to first consult with your dentist. He or she can walk you through the procedure and what it entails, as well as answer any questions that you may have. Some may even have a video to help explain the techniques involved and medical terms used. Be honest about your nervousness – there are many ways to soothe patients, and a dentist will need their full concentration for the work on your mouth. Working together, you and your dentist can ensure that you receive the level of sedation necessary to keep you relaxed and still.
What types of sedation are used in dentistry?
Ranging from a mild relaxation aid to full anesthesia, they are:
Inhaled sedation in the form of nitrous oxide, mixed with oxygen, is the only sedative that will wear off enough to allow a patient to drive home safely after the procedure. Also known as "laughing gas," this mild relaxation aid makes patients feel "floaty" and relieves minor worries. A mask is placed over your nose; the gas is administered by inhaling. The dentist controls the dose and amount that you receive.
Oral sedation is usually mild to moderate and is administered in the form of a pill. This is usually a dose of Halcion, which is part of the Vicodin family. You will feel drowsy and relaxed, yet still awake. A stronger dose results in moderate sedation, and many patients fall asleep during the procedure. It is important to talk to your dentist before you decide on this option – some people have reactions to Vicodin, and those in substance abuse recovery should discuss taking this medication with their dentist and recovery counselor. Although patients that fall asleep can be awakened with a gentle shake, it is important to arrange transportation home after your procedure.
IV moderate sedation is administered directly into a vein, using an IV needle. The medication goes to work quickly, and the dentist controls the level of sedation administered.
General anesthesia is the deepest level of sedation. Using this, the patient is fully unconscious and can only be awakened through medical reversal of the anesthesia. This typically isn't found in your local dentist's office but used mainly for oral surgery. As this is a more complicated level of sedation, only dentists who are certified by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) are permitted to administer it. For both this level of sedation and the IV moderate sedation, it is important that you arrange transportation home.
Sedation dentistry can be an option for patients ranging from those with a low pain threshold to those who will require a long and complicated procedure. It is very important to have a consultation with your dentist beforehand, including your medical history, especially if you are obese, have sleep apnea, or have undergone substance abuse treatment. Although these conditions don't rule out sedation, they do have an effect on the options that are best for you as the patient. As a medical professional, your dentist is committed to giving you the best care possible, under the most appropriate level of sedation and relaxation aids for your needs.