People often fear regular dental visits and routine treatments. This fear can stem from negative experiences in childhood, painful treatments in adulthood, or can sometimes be influenced by stereotypes portrayed in TV and movies. Fear and anxiety can cause individuals to avoid seeking treatment for serious dental issues, putting them at greater risk for complications. Our practice understands and empathizes with the difficulties these fears and anxieties pose. We strive to offer solutions in a comfortable and relaxing setting, enabling patients to take the important and necessary steps towards achieving their optimal oral health.
Sedation dentistry provides calming and relaxing treatment options for patients who have heightened fear or anxiety about dental visits. Sedation can be administered in many forms including intravenously (IV), orally, or via gas. The variety of methods allow for different levels of sedation: minimal, moderate, or deep. The level of sedation a patient requires is determined by the intensity of his/her fear or anxiety.
Levels of Sedation
Minimal sedation relieves anxiety both before and during the exam. The patient is still alert and can respond quickly to instructions or requests given by the dentist. The patient remains awake and calm, and may only remember parts of the visit.
In moderate sedation, the patient remains awake, but is considerably more relaxed. The patient is only able to respond to large or significant stimulus and exhibits a slower response time. The patient will likely slur his/her words and will most likely not remember the exam or treatment.
Deep sedation is reserved for those patients with deep-seated fears and anxiety. The patient is sedated to the edge of consciousness and is closely monitored throughout the procedure. The patient may doze off and need to be awakened throughout the course of the exam or treatment. Patients under deep sedation rarely show signs of recognition of what is taking place and rarely remember anything about the procedure.
Oral sedation eases a patient’s anxiety without the need for IV’s or needles. This is an excellent option for patients who have difficulty getting numb from lidocaine and similar agents. The patient will take a small pill 1-hour prior to the appointment. This pill may make the patient drowsy, so a companion will need to escort the patient to and from the appointment. The patient will arrive at the office feeling calm and relaxed and will be escorted to a treatment room where s/he will be wrapped in a warm blanket. Once settled into the treatment room, the dentist and team will perform the exam or procedure, while continually monitoring the patient’s vital signs to ensure health and safety. After the treatment is completed, the companion will escort the patient home to rest and sleep for a few hours while the effects of the oral sedative wear off.
Intravenous Conscious Sedation
Intravenous conscious sedation is used for patients with moderate to severe anxiety. This type of sedation is no as widely practiced, but we feel it is a critical option to offer our patients to ensure that all patients can receive the care and treatments they need. When a patient arrives at the office, medicine will be administered via an IV prior to the procedure. IV medicine is more potent and effective because it is delivered directly into bloodstream. The doctor can closely monitor your response to the sedative and very quickly and easily make any necessary adjustments. Throughout the procedure, the patient’s heart rate, blood oxygen level, blood pressure and breathing are monitored to ensure the patient’s safety. The patient remains awake through the entire procedure and is able to respond to the doctor’s requests and instructions. After the procedure, the medicine will naturally wear off, leaving the patient with amnesia of the procedure, so that s/he does not remember the experience.
This type of sedation requires advanced specialized training and certification from the State Board of Dental Examiners.
In order to reduce the pain and discomfort of certain procedures, dentists will use a local anesthetic to numb the treatment site. Medicine such as lidocaine, or similar numbing agents, is injected into the gum and inner cheek to eliminate sensation in the area. The numbness will generally last a few hours after the procedure, gradually fading away. Because the numbness only affects the sensitivity of the teeth and jaw, the patient remains awake and alert, able to respond quickly to any requests or instructions from the doctor. Also, because patients are not mentally sedated, patients can usually dive home or return to work immediately following the procedure.
Do you fear your regular dental exams or necessary treatments?
You may be a candidate for sedation dentistry!
Candidates include individuals who have the following:
- • High levels or fear or anxiety regarding dental visits
- • A past traumatic dental experience
- • Difficulty getting numb for procedures
- • Sensitive gag reflex
- • Highly sensitive teeth
- • Limited time constraints to complete a dental procedure
- • Complex dental issues
- • Strong aversion to the noises, smells, and tastes associated with a dental appointment
- • Fear or embarrassment about teeth