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What Is Sedation Dentistry and Why do We Love It?

Posted by Dr. Mark Mann

Sep 30, 2015 2:00:00 PM

What is Sedation Dentistry and Why Promote Its Use?

what is sedation dentistry 20499708_sIn answer to the question, "What is sedation dentistry?" it may be helpful to simply look up a definition for the word "sedate," which comes from the Latin word "sedatus," meaning calm, quiet, composed or tranquil. For those individuals whose trips to the dentist seem the antithesis of calm and composed, there's good indication that they may be prime candidates for one of our calming sedation dentistry techniques. With several sedation methods available, it's possible for patients to achieve the precise levels of relaxation they require to remain comfortable and anxiety free both before and during their dental treatments. That's one thing we love about sedation dentistry – we're able to assist patients who have dental visit anxieties overcome the fears they may feel, and just to the degree they need.

Individual Choices for Individual Needs

When asked what is sedation dentistry, the specific response can be one of several responses. A very basic level of sedation treatment is nitrous oxide, also commonly called "laughing gas." Sometimes shortened to the single-word name "nitrous," this is a colorless gas that, when mixed with oxygen, is breathed in by the patient through a nosepiece similar to a nasal cannula. This time-honored method of sedation for dental patients works quickly and easily.

While it's not the goal of this particular type of sedation therapy to put the patient to sleep, many users will become drowsy and may feel themselves on the edge of slumber. What happens to someone inhaling nitrous is that they feel comfortable and in a perceived state of euphoric well-being. They're still aware, however, of their surroundings and are able to respond to questions or directions from the dentist.

Once the nitrous oxide has been removed, there's no on-going effect and the patient is perfectly able to drive him or herself home without risk. With the other sedation methods offered, one will likely require the assistance of a helper to drive home safely from the dentist. Three reasons we love sedation dentistry include:

  • It works quickly
  • It helps in convincing patients to seek dental treatment
  • It elevates the mood during the appointment, greatly decreasing anxiety

When Nitrous Isn't Enough

When explaining what is sedation dentistry, it's important to relate that each treatment step builds upon the previous one. Those with little or no anxiety about receiving dental treatment may be fine with nothing more than standard dental anesthetics such as Lidocaine, commonly used for numbing a particular area in the mouth. Those requiring additional assistance handling the pain or anxiety they associate with dental treatments may also be given nitrous oxide to promote relaxation and cessation of some of the anxiety.

Some individuals, however, may have such a degree of fear or anxiousness about visiting the dentist that it may prevent them from even attempting to have needed dental work done. For these patients, oral sedation may be added to the application of local anesthetics and nitrous oxide to further enhance a state of patient relaxation. One of the best aspects of oral sedation, which is administered in tablet or capsule form, is it's helpful effect even before appointment time arrives.

An effective and properly prescribed oral sedative is often taken some time before the actual dental appointment in order to have some time to work its anxiety-decreasing effect. This is a benefit because it will help relieve pre-appointment jitters that might otherwise cause a patient to forgo the appointment altogether due to uncontrollable feelings of fear or anxiousness.

The medication will continue to remain effective during the dental procedures and will slowly wear off after some time. For this reason, the use of oral sedation will require that a patient have somebody to drive him or her home from the appointment. If the medication is taken before the appointment time, a ride to the dentist will also be necessary.

A Third Option for Stronger Sedation

Those with severe fear or anxiety related to receiving dental treatment can be taken one step further along the relaxation scale by the administration of IV sedation. Similar to intra-venous therapy used in hospitals to hydrate patients and add medications through a tube attached to their arm or hand, dental IV sedation consists of applying medication that fosters a deep state of relaxation similar to the sleep state.

With all the sedation options available, including nitrous, oral and IV sedation choices, patients can achieve whatever level of anxiety-free relaxation they require to survive their trips to the dentist. Going to the dentist is important. Anything to make the process easier should be considered. Do any of these discussed options provide a viable alternative for you? 

Topics: Sedation Dentistry

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