Sedation Dentistry for Anxiety-Free Dental Care

Sep 11 • 3 minute read

Over 30% of the population avoids going to the dentist due to anxiety and fear. Dental phobia prevents you from receiving the routine treatment you need to maintain the health and functionality of your smile. Sedation dentistry can help you get the care you need by providing a relaxing experience with significantly less anxiety. Sedatives can include anti-anxiety medications, tranquilizers, nitrous oxide, and depressants, all administered in a variety of ways by an experienced professional for an effective solution to combat this common phobia.

Popular Kinds of Sedation Dentistry

In the past, IV or intravenous sedation was the predominant method used to sedate a patient. Today we have access to more advanced techniques that are simple and easy and don’t require needles. Sedation treatment is sometimes called sleep dentistry, but it does not make you sleep during your procedure. The effects of the sedatives will make you feel sleepy, and in some cases, you forget the entire experience as if you slept through the visit.  

  • Oral Sedatives: This is the most common technique used in the United States and Canada. Oral sedatives include drugs such as Diazepam and are taken about one hour before the start of your scheduled dental appointment to allow the drugs to take effect in your system. You generally remain awake for the duration of your dental appointment but feel considerably more relaxed and less anxious than you would have without the medication. You will maintain consciousness during your treatment, allowing you to cooperate with your dentist safely.
  • Intravenous Sedatives: This type of sedative are administered via an IV or intravenous injection directly into the bloodstream.They put you into a deep state of relaxation, allowing you to rest until the procedure is complete. This sedative can put you into a “twilight sleep,” a state in which you remain conscious, but feel sleepy and remember little if any of the procedure.
  • Nitrous Oxide: This is an inhaled gas that helps you to relax during your dental procedure and wears off fairly quickly. For this reason, your dentist may allow you to drive yourself home after the treatment is over, and the effects have worn off fully.

Choosing the Right Option for You

It may be tempting to assume that IV sedation would be best because it provides the deepest form of relaxation. This sedation must be administered and monitored by someone specifically trained, and some dentists only offer it for specific procedures. You’ll need to evaluate all your options before simply choosing a general anesthetic option.

Some sedation options can raise your threshold for pain, but most dental procedures will still require the injection of a local anesthetic. Fortunately, you won’t notice the injection much if you are already relaxed before the injection. This prevents you from experiencing any pain and can make the whole experience a lot easier to handle.

Who Can Benefit from Sedation Dentistry?

People have a variety of reasons for preferring sedation dentistry, including:

  • You have a general anxiety disorder that causes you to experience anxiety during daily life, including dental visits.
  • You have a specific phobia about dental procedures or dentists.
  • You have had bad experiences with dental procedures in the past, leading to discomfort around dental treatment now.
  • You have a smaller mouth than most people, which affects the ability of dentists to reach the back molars and tissue during procedures.
  • You have especially sensitive oral nerves.
  • You have a resistance to local anesthetics like Novocain or Benzocaine which causes them to be ineffective on you.

If you are affected by any of these, talk to your dentist about sedation dentistry. Using sedation dentistry, your dental care provider can make it easier for you to receive important treatments such as fillings, extractions, root canal therapy, dental implants, crowns, bridges, and more.

It’s unlikely you will need dental sedation if you are just receiving a simple tooth cleaning, dental x-ray, or tooth whitening procedure. If you experience a great deal of anxiety around these procedures, however, you may be an exception and be allowed to use dental sedation for routine visits.

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