For some people, the thought of a dentist visit creates anxiety. Regardless of whether the fear is due to the procedure that might be needed, or the physical feelings associated with the instruments a dentist might use, a dental phobia does not have to hinder good oral hygiene and the care a visit to the dentist provides. Sedation dentistry is an option with a main goal of making the visit as easy as possible while ensuring patients feel safe and remain relaxed.

What It Is

Quite simply, sedation dentistry uses sedation methods to help patients relax and remain calm during their dental visit. Depending on the procedure, different levels of sedation can be used. Simple cleanings can involve low dose sedatives that allow the patient to remain awake. More detailed or lengthy procedures often warrant the use of general anesthesia that will put patients to sleep. The patient’s particular anxiety also affects which method is an ideal choice.

Types of Sedation

Minimal sedation is achieved through the inhalation of a nitrous oxide and oxygen blend. Also known as laughing gas, this mix allows the patient to be calm and relaxed, while wearing off quickly. It is ideal for short procedures and when patients need to be able to drive on their own.

A deeper sedation can be reached through oral or IV methods. This moderate type of sedation is often the choice for more lengthy procedures. Oral sedation involves taking an oral sedative before arrival at the dentist’s office. An IV sedative may be administered at the dentist’s office instead of an oral sedative. This method is often instantaneous. Patients who undergo moderate sedation are often advised to have another person drive them home following the office visit and stay with them until the effects have worn off completely.

General anesthesia is often recommended for patients who do not respond well to other sedation methods. It is also ideal for more complex or time-consuming procedures such as a wisdom tooth extraction or root canal. Patients who have undergone general anesthesia will need someone to drive them home and supervise them for about six hours while the anesthesia completely wears off.

The most commonly chosen option for routine care is minimal sedation using the nitrous oxide. The concentration can be adjusted to ideal levels for use with both adults and children. While most patients can experience light drowsiness, the goal is not to induce sleep but to have a patient with a level of consciousness that allows them to still follow directions and assist in their care.

A visit to the dentist does not have to bring such horrible feelings. People do not need to forego ensuring good dental health because of fear. Sedation dentistry helps dentists take care of their patients while making the experience as stress-free as possible. Patients are able to remain calm and cooperative throughout the whole visit.