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Sedation Dentistry Methods

Dentists and Dental Procedures
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Let’s be honest – relaxing in a dentist chair seems like a contradiction, yet that is exactly what sedation dentistry strives to achieve for dental patients. Knowing that too many Americans skip routine checkups and avoid common dental procedures due to their fear that seeing the dentist equals pain, dentists have found a way to sedate patients during dental procedures.

Who is a candidate for sedation dentistry?

There are no rules about who can receive sedation during dental procedures, but know that sedation dentistry is an option for you if you:

  • Have an anxiety or phobia about going to the dentist
  • Have sensitive teeth
  • Have a bad gag reflex
  • Hate needles
  • Have limited time to spend on dental care at the dentist and want to get several procedures done at once
  • Cannot sit still during a dental procedure (such as a young, restless child)

What is sedation dentistry?

In general, sedation dentistry describes the process used to help a patient achieve a relaxed, easy and calm state through the use of sedatives during a dental procedure. The type and degree of sedation that can be used will depend upon the patient’s level of fear and anxiety as well as the kind of procedure that will take place. Some of the sedative drugs that are used can include tranquillizers, depressants, anti-anxiety medications, and nitrous oxide, and they can be administered in a variety of ways.

Oral Sedation Dentistry

Oral sedation is the most common type of sedation used for dental patients. The technique is easy and delivers a deep relaxation state that makes patients feel as though they slept through their treatment.

Your dentist will consult with you to determine if you are a good candidate for an oral sedative. If you are, your dentist will take your vital signs and prescribe Halcion to be taken one hour before your dental appointment.

During oral sedation, patients remain awake but feel completely relaxed and drowsy. Patients are never left alone during treatment; rather their pulse, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, and comfort are constantly being monitored.

IV Sedation Dentistry

Like oral sedation, IV sedation puts you in a deep relaxed state and creates a period of amnesia, leaving you to feel as though you slept through your dental procedure. One of the benefits of IV sedation is that the onset is quite rapid. With IV sedation, the anti-anxiety drug is administered intravenously through a needle and could produce a deeper state of relaxation than oral sedation. If you have a phobia of needles, tell your dentist so he can administer something like laughing gas to comfort you while the IV needle is being inserted.

Nitrous Oxide

Also commonly referred to as laughing gas, nitrous oxide is a mild form of sedation that slowly induces the patient into a state of relaxation.

General Anesthesia

A general anesthesia can be applied for patients with severe anxieties about dental procedures. This type of sedation will make patients completely unconscious and unaware of their surroundings.

Local Anesthetic

Except for general anesthesia, the other forms of sedation will still require the use of a local anesthetic in order to keep the patient pain free during dental treatment. Because this injection induces fear or anxiety for many patients, dentists take extra measures to provide comfort for their patients. The following are some of the procedures sedation dentists use to make their patients more comfortable while injecting a local anesthetic:

  • Put patients in a reclined position during an injection
  • Use a topical anesthetic, such as a gel or spray, to numb the patient's gums where the injection will be given.
  • Use a distraction technique, such as pulling or shaking the lip, while the needle is slowly inserted
  • Inject the local anesthetic slowly to achieve a painless injection
  • Allow the local anesthetic drug approximately five minutes to take effect after it is injected
  • Dentists can also offer the use of conscious sedation, such as laughing gas, to make patients more comfortable during the injection

Keep in mind that if you choose any type of sedation dentistry, you will need to have someone accompany you to your visit. Some of the sedation medications do not wear off immediately, so you will need someone to drive you home after your procedures.

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