Sedation Dentistry: Can You Really Relax in the Dentist’s Chair?

Does the thought of having your teeth cleaned make your entire body tense with fear? Would you rather endure the agony of a toothache than step foot in a dentist’s office? You are not alone. A lot of people have a phobia about going to the dentist that they prefer not to have any treatment. It is our pleasure, at Howell & Everett, DDS, to discuss how we can make every visit to our office the best it cannbsp;be.

For people who avoid dentists like the plague, sedation dentistry make take away some of their anxiety. Sedation can be used for everything, from invasive procedures to a simple tooth cleaning. How it is used depends on the severity of the fear.

Recommended Related to Oral Health

One zing to the nerve of a tooth after a sip or bite of food is enough to send even the hungriest bear running from the kitchen. Sensitive teeth can seriously limit the enjoyment of your favorite fare. So, if ice cream meeting your tooth has you seeing stars, the layer beneath the surface of your tooth (called dentin) has become exposed, according to Eric Sung, DDS, a professor at UCLA’s School of Dentistry.

What is Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation dentistry uses medication to help patients relax during dental procedures. It is sometimes referred to as, ‘sleep dentistry,’ although that is not entirely accurate. Patients are usually awake, with the exception of those who are under general anesthesia.

The Levels of Sedation Used Include:

  • Minimal sedation, where you are awake, but relaxed.
  • Moderate sedation, formerly called “conscious sedation,” where you may slur your words when speaking and not remember much of the procedure.
  • Deep sedation, where you are on the edge of consciousness, but can still be awakened.
  • General anesthesia, where you are completely unconscious.

What Types of Sedation are Used in Dentistry?

The following types of sedation are used in dentistry:

Inhaled, minimal sedation: You breathe in nitrous oxide, otherwise known as “laughing gas,” combined with oxygen, through a mask that is placed over your nose. The gas helps you relax. The dentist can control the amount of sedation you receive, and the gas tends to wear off quickly. This is the only form of sedation where you may be able to drive yourself home after the procedure.

Oral sedation: Depending on the total dose given, oral sedation can range from minimal to moderate. For minimal sedation, you take a pill. Typically, the pill is Halcion, which is a member of the same drug family as Valium. It is usually taken about an hour before the procedure. The pill will make you drowsy, although you will still be awake. A larger dose may be given to produce moderate sedation. This is the type of anesthesia most commonly associated with sedation dentistry. Some people become groggy enough from moderate oral sedation to actually fall asleep during the procedure. They usually can, though, be awakened with a gentle shake. Regardless of which type of sedation you receive, you will also typically need a local anesthetic-numbing medication at the site where the dentist is working in the mouth to relieve pain if the procedure causes any discomfort.