Whether are you are looking for dental care for yourself or for the little ones, fear may throw a wrench into the equation. We all know taking care of your teeth is important, but it’s not easy to say that if you are frightened when the time comes to get into the doctor’s chair—and this applies to any age. If your fears are causing a severe issue with your dental care regimen, you may want to consider sedation dentistry as an option. Many of us may have heard of using sedation for extreme positions, but there are different procedures that can even help with your anxiety in the office.
What Is Sedation Dentistry?
Some refer to sedation dentistry as sleep dentistry, but this isn’t fully accurate. Unless you are under anesthesia, most patients are awake. The proper definition for sedation dentistry is when medication is used to help patients relax during dental procedures. This can go in varying degrees, from minimal sedation when you are awake and relaxed to deep sedation, where you are on the edge of consciousness but can be awakened.
According to California dentist Dr. Farr, “A sedation dentist can provide several different levels of sedation that “induce a restful, relaxed state, lessen or eliminate your awareness of the sights, sounds and sensations of treatments, and leave you feeling relaxed, and with little or no memory of your procedure.”
There are three types of sedation used in dentistry, each suitable for different procedures.
Inhaled sedation: Here, you breathe nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, combined with oxygen through a mask that’s placed over your nose. Generally, the weakest of the three option, your dentist has control over how much sedation you use. In addition, the gas tends to wear off quickly. This is the only option of the three where you may be able to drive yourself home afterward.
Oral sedation: A pill, (generally Halcion, a member of the Valium family) is taken orally about an hour before your scheduled visit. You will need to be driven back and forth to the procedure. Note that the purpose here is relaxation, so you will need local anesthetics as well to prevent pain.
IV sedation: IV sedation medication is delivered through a very small needle placed in the back of your hand or within your inner elbow. This works quickly, which makes it popular, but you will need to do the most amount of preparation for this method. You will need to provide info on any other medications or supplements you take to determine potential interactions.
Am I A Good Candidate?
Dental fears are the primary reason that we are talking about sedation dentistry, but there are plenty of other valid reasons that it is used. Some examples include people that:
- have a low pain threshold
- can’t sit still in the dentist’s chair
- have very sensitive teeth
- have a bad gag reflex
- need a large amount of dental work completed
If you find that you fall into any of these categories or something similar, consider talking to your dentist about using sedation for your next visit. They will be able to help guide you to which of the three types is best for your situation. For more information, you can view this video of happy dental patients.
To clear the air, yes, children can be candidates for sedation dentistry. Generally, this is only reserved for extreme cases, like where your child is far too scared of the dentist to go at all, or their fear keeps them from being cooperative during the visit. Think of sedation as more of a secondary resort. For the most part, nitrous oxide is safe for children and can be administered by most dentists. A smaller number can also use
In this vein, a lot of your options are going to depend on what type of dentist you see. Depending on the nature of the procedure you are looking to have done, or your fears regarding getting in the chair, you may need to seek someone outside of your normal dental practitioner for care. However, there are several resources out there designed to make this job easier.
At any age, it’s not a good idea to let fear keep you from getting your recommended medical care, dental or otherwise. Sedation dentistry allows you to take your fears out of the equation and turn the dentist from something you dread to something you can work through easily. Don’t be afraid to apply the same mindset to your family as well.