Are you a person who tenses up at the thought of going to the dentist? Do dental scenes in movies send you into a cold sweat? Dental anxiety is so common that it even has its own names: odontophobia or dentophobia. If fear of sitting in the dental chair is something that you struggle with, then sedation dentistry might be right for you. Read on to answer the question "what is sedation dentistry?" as well as to discuss the types of sedation that are used, who the best candidates for this practice are, and how to discuss the risks associated with your dentist.
What Is Sedation Dentistry?
Simply put, sedation dentistry is any form of dentistry that is performed while the patient is under some level of sedation. Sometimes, the practice is colloquially known as "sleep dentistry," though this is somewhat of a misnomer. At almost all levels of sedation except general anesthesia, administered by oral surgeons, you will be awake and have some level of consciousness during the procedure.
What Levels and Types of Sedation Can I Expect?
Depending on your needs as a patient, levels of sedation can range from mild to deep, with the lightest level being inhaled sedation--typically nitrous oxide or "laughing gas"--in which you are fully awake but relaxed. From there, patients move through the levels of sedation with oral medications such as Halcion, a drug that is similar to Valium, or IV moderate sedation. The latter not only allows for quicker dispensation of the drug but also allows the dentist to continually adjust administration throughout the process. At the far end of the sedation spectrum, deep sedation and general anesthesia will leave you either nearly or fully unconscious. While you are under general anesthesia, you cannot be easily awakened until either the effects of anesthesia have worn off or have been reversed with medication. Each of these levels of anesthesia is also usually accompanied by a local anesthetic, which will be administered at the site where your dental work will be taking place in order to offset potential discomfort.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Sedation Dentistry?
Although patients with dental anxiety are prime candidates, they're not the only ones who can benefit from this service. Sedation dentistry can also be beneficial to people who are undergoing large amounts of dentistry, people who have an especially sensitive gag reflex, people with especially sensitive teeth or low pain thresholds, or people who struggle to sit still in the dentist's chair. If any of these sound like you, be sure to discuss possible options with your dental service provider to see what the most appropriate level or type of sedation is right for you.
How Safe Is Sedation Dentistry?
While there is always some risk in receiving any type of anesthesia, these risks can be minimized by good communication with an experienced dentist. Most dentists are able to provide light inhaled sedation, but if your concerns require more intensive anesthetics, it's important to choose a dentist whose qualifications match your needs. When you meet with your dentist, be sure to discuss your medical history, what the appropriate type and amount of sedation is for people your age and weight, and how many procedures your dentist has performed using the sedation technique that's right for you. Additionally, dentists should provide you a form that discusses the risks involved so that you're able to keep them for your records.
Dental anxiety can be keep people from getting the care they need. In the United States, nearly 20% of all adults report having cavities that go untreated, many of which have to do with just such a fear. If you've asked "what is sedation dentistry," weighed the risks, and learned the types of sedation available, it may be time to speak to a dentist about how to proceed. If you want to take the first steps toward a healthier smile, give our office a call to set up an appointment.