Many people experience anxiety about undergoing dental work or even visiting the dentist at all, a fear known as dental phobia. This can keep them from seeking proper dental care and may be compromising their dental health. Relief for patients with dental phobia is now available through sedation dentistry.
Sedation dentistry involves the use of medication to provide a relaxing and anxiety-free experience for people undergoing dental treatment. Although sometimes referred to as “sleep dentistry,” most patients remain awake after taking sedation medication and experience a sleepy feeling. There are several different methods available to achieve varying degrees of sedation, all depending on the type of procedure and preference of the patient.
Different than Anesthesia
Although sedation produces a relaxed state, it does not produce the same effect as anesthesia, which is used for most dental procedures. Patients will still require local anesthesia through injection to help reduce the pain of the procedure. Sedation simply helps relieve the nerves and anxiety that often accompany seeing a dentist. The anesthesia is usually injected after the patient is sedated to reduce anxiety about the actual injection.
Benefits of Sedation Dentistry
Many people are uneasy at just the thought of undergoing dental work. Sedation allows people to gain a sense of comfort about these often complex and lengthy procedures. It may also influence some patients to undergo elective procedures that they may have been apprehensive about before. Sedation dentistry lets patients feel as though their lengthy procedures last for only a few minutes.
Patients that benefit from sedation dentistry include those who:
- Have a low pain threshold
- Have sensitive teeth
- Can’t sit still in the dentist’s chair
- Have a bad gag reflex
- Need a large amount of dental work done
Types of Dental Sedation
Sedation can be administered through several different methods, depending on the overall health and level of relaxation required by the patient. Most patients use nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, to achieve the relaxed sensation they desire. This is achieved by placing a mask over the nose that lets the patient breathe in the gas. The sedated feelings begin anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes after inhaling. Numbness throughout the cheeks and gums also begins quickly. Other methods of sedation can be delivered orally or intravenously.
Depending on a patient’s anxiety levels, different degrees of dental sedation may be required. These varying degrees include:
- Conscious Sedation – Most dentists use conscious sedation, a state that lets patients feel relaxed but also remain awake and able to respond to commands. You will not remember most of the procedure with this sedation.
- Deep Sedation – Patients with higher anxiety levels may feel more comfortable with deep sedation, which provides a state somewhere between consciousness and unconsciousness. In this state, patients cannot respond to commands and may need breathing assistance.
- Unconsciousness – An unconscious state is also occasionally obtained but requires general anesthesia and brings about added risks. This is usually only used for oral surgery.
Risks of Sedation Dentistry
Although the risk of using sedation is low, mild side effects can occur. Some patients may experience nausea, drowsiness or lightheadedness. IV sedation is not recommended for patients who are claustrophobic, have a blocked nasal passage, are obese or have obstructive sleep apnea. Because of potential side effects and the length of sedation, you may need someone to drive you home once your procedure is complete.
It is important to discuss the individual risks of sedation dentistry with your doctor, who can help you decide if you can benefit from this technique.
Sedation Dentistry F.A.Q.
Q. How do patients benefit from having access to sedation dentistry?
A. Sedation dentistry access can be beneficial for almost any patient, but especially those who suffer from dental phobia, and in many instances, those who may require extensive repair. Often for these patients, sedation gives them the feeling that their dental procedure lasted only a few minutes, when in fact it might have taken hours to perform. Therefore, complex dental procedures such as implant placement, wisdom tooth removal, bone grafts, or extensive rebuilding procedures that normally require multiple visits can often be performed in fewer appointments.
Q. How does implementing sedation dentistry help dentists and their teams enhance their level of care?
A. With a relaxed patient, the dentist and his team can concentrate on performing the dental procedure with more accuracy, without having to worry about patient movements, gagging, or the patient feeling discomfort during the procedure. It can also help to reduce the post-operative discomfort and healing time for patients.
Q. How do dentists become certified in sedation and how long does it take?
A. Completion of a mini-residency is necessary. Conscious sedation permit requirements vary slightly from state to state, but typically a mini-residency with a minimum of 60 hours of didactic/classroom education and direct participation in administering IV sedation to 20 to 30 clinical dental cases will cover most state requirements. Dr. Wilbanks is one of only 258 dentists certified in the state of Georgia to provide IV conscious sedation service. The differences in oral conscious sedation and IV conscious sedation are: the training requirement of 100 hours of continuing education credits; safety and the ability to regulate the amount of sedation and medication to keep the patient comfortable, which is not possible in oral sedation; the patient is monitored throughout the procedure with a vital sign monitor; and the facility has to be certified by the state.
Q. What specific types of patients benefit the most from using sedation?
A. A wide variety of patients benefit from sedation. These patients include patients with dental phobias or ones who had a previous traumatic dental experience, extremely anxious patients, patients with major dental neglect, patients who are having their wisdom teeth removed or other dental surgery, patients with mental deficiencies, strong gag reflexes, and those dealing with restless leg syndrome or other neurological issues.