For many people, a simple trip to the dentist leaves them filled with dread and anxiety. In fact, fear of having dental work done is more common than you may think. Fortunately for these people, modern dental technology offers a solution: sedation dentistry. There are several types available, each designed for different patients with varying levels of anxiety. What follows are the most common forms of sedation dentistry and a brief explanation of the benefits of each.
- Nitrous oxide – Also referred to as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide is a safe and effective form of sedation offered to dental patients with mild anxiety. Nitrous oxide provides many benefits to patients, including the following: 1) It’s easily administered in the dentist’s chair right before the dental procedure. The patient simply breathes in the gas through a mask, and within several seconds, the sedation goes into effect. 2) It wears off quickly. Unlike some other sedation methods that leave the patient groggy and unable to drive after the appointment, the effects of laughing gas go away quickly after the procedure is complete. 3) Although patients remain awake during the visit, nitrous oxide allows them to relax completely and even feel a little giddy.
- Oral sedation – For patients who experience a more intense level of anxiety during a trip to the dentist, oral sedation might be the answer. In this scenario, the dentist prescribes a pill for the patient which needs to be taken prior to arrival at the dentist’s office. Oral sedation offers the following benefits: 1) It’s stronger than nitrous oxide, which makes it a great choice for patients who either have a higher level of stress, or who need to go through a prolonged dental procedure. 2) It allows the patient to feel completely at ease yet still remain conscious throughout the visit. Many people describe the effects as being in a half-awake/half-asleep state. This allows the dentist to communicate with the patient during the procedure.
- IV sedation – The most extreme form of dental sedation is typically reserved for patients who need to undergo some type of oral surgery, such as wisdom tooth removal, for example. Similar to the type of sedation administered for any other form of surgery, dental IV sedation involves the patient receiving a sedative directly into the bloodstream through an IV line. This form of sedation offers several benefits for people undergoing a long and/or complicated procedure, including the following: 1) IV sedation renders the patient unconscious. This is a definite advantage for people who experience extreme anxiety and need to undergo any type of oral surgery. Even if you’re not normally nervous about going to the dentist, IV sedation is typically recommended for surgical procedures. 2) IV sedation is administered by an anesthesiologist, who monitors the patient throughout the procedure to ensure that vital signs remain normal.
Any of these sedation methods, when combined with a local anesthetic to numb the affected area of the patient’s mouth, makes modern dentistry virtually pain-free. If you suffer from anxiety about your dental visits, ask your dentist about which sedation method might be the best choice for you.