The Purpose of Sedation Dentistry

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Photo of scared woman holding hands over mouth while dentist tries to do dental work

Do you get nervous about receiving dental work? Are you afraid of the dental chair? Sedation dentistry has revolutionized modern dental work as it allows the patient to relax during treatment and reduce the number of visits to the dentist each year. Through the use of dissolvable tablets or intravenous needles, sedation dentistry puts the body at ease during treatment but still allows you to be awake and cognitive throughout the entire process. Learn what option of sedation dentistry will work best for you through these tips!


What Is It?

One of the most common reasons that patients avoid going to the dentist is fear. According to the Dental Organization for Conscious Sedation (DOCS), 30% of adult patients avoid the dental chair out of fear, and nearly 75 million people across the United States have some level of fear when it comes to dental care. Many of these fears stem from anxiety, a fear of needles, and bad experiences during childhood and/or adulthood. Effective dental sedation techniques can eliminate fears or anxiety about dental office visits, and allow you to receive the important care you need while having a positive experience at the same time. Sedation dentistry uses a variety of techniques, from nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to general anesthesia, to relax patients during surgery or uncomfortable visits.


Depending on your needs, some sedation techniques involve controlling pain, allowing relaxation, and inducing sleep during treatment. The medicines that are used to help patients with fear and anxiety are called benzodiazepines, including common prescriptions such as lorazepam, hydroxyzine, diazepam (valium), triazolam, and others. You and your dentist can discuss which option is best for you, but your overall health, allergies, anxiety levels and type of procedure needed will be considered when choosing which treatment you receive. Sedation can be safely used for short dental procedures and throughout long, more intensive treatments. Additionally, your dentist may recommend that your child use anesthesia or sedation to relax them during their time in the chair, as well. For both children and adults, sedation dentistry can eliminate the need for multiple appointments and leave you completely pain-free while not seeing, hearing, or smelling any aspects that you fear.


Types of SedationPhoto of patient receiving anesthesia for dental work

Laughing gas is one of the most common forms of anesthetic used in dental offices due to its effectiveness at reducing anxiety while you are awake. Also called “inhalation analgesia,” nitrous oxide does not put you to sleep and is very safe. Many dental offices even administer the gas through a machine to further reduce any discomfort by an injection. Other sedation options, such as local anesthesia, are used to prevent pain in a specific area of your mouth by blocking the nerves that transmit pain, thus causing numbness. Topical anesthetics are used hand-in-hand with local anesthetic to numb the area before an injection, and they are often used to relieve painful mouth sores. Injectable anesthetics may be used when filling cavities, preparing teeth for crowns or when treating gum disease.


Other sedation techniques include enteral and IV sedation, and general anesthesia. Enteral sedation comes in pill and liquid forms that you take orally, and oftentimes are combined with nitrous oxide to relieve any tension during dental work. Intravenous (IV) sedation is another common form of anesthetic that is directly injected into the vein to create deeper sedation during treatment. You will still be awake during the procedure, but less aware of your environment and what all is happening. Since IV sedation is a stronger form of sedation, there will be some recovery time needed after the procedure before you can jump back into your normal routine. General anesthesia is a form of sedation that puts you to sleep entirely by injecting the drugs directly into your vein, along with possible inhalation of a gaseous anesthetic. This is the strongest form of sedation and will require some recovery time in the location of your procedure before you will be allowed to leave or operate machinery, such as a car.


After-Care Treatment

Depending on the treatment you receive, you may need a pain reliever after your procedure. Analgesics are used to relieve pain and are broken into two groups: non-narcotic and narcotic. Non-narcotics, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen and non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs, are most commonly used to treat toothaches or pain following dental work. Narcotic analgesics, such as opioids, act on the central nervous system and are used to treat more severe pain. With any medication you may receive after treatment, make sure to discuss any and all instructions with your dentist about how to take your prescription. If you have any young children or teenagers in your household, make sure to properly store and dispose of any unused or expired medications. Take the time to speak with your children about the effects of using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes.


Eligibility Requirements

Any healthy adult is eligible for sedation treatments, but your overall health (including physical and mental) is taken into account to ensure that you are able to safely undergo any of the sedation options. Certain conditions, such as cardiac disease, respiratory disease, diabetes and hypertension, may require medical clearance from a physician before receiving treatment. Your dentist will also go over your medical history and conduct a physical assessment beforehand to determine eligibility.


For more information on whether sedation dentistry is for you and how it can benefit your next dental visit, call Stonebrook Family Dental at (303) 872-7907! Our staff is dedicated to helping you and your family receives the best dental care possible and get you the smile that you deserve!


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