If your hands shake, your heart races and you feel a sense of trepidation at the thought of visiting the dentist then you almost certainly have some degree of dental anxiety. While fear of the dentist is a well-known cliché, the fact is that the condition is very real and affects as many as 15% of adult Americans at any one time. Those who suffer from dental anxiety may experience a broad range of symptoms, from shaking and heart palpitations to nausea, vomiting and even fainting. Unfortunately, many patients find that their fear wins out and they avoid visiting their dentist – a manoeuvre that is putting the appearance of their smile, and both their dental and general health at considerable risk.
Fortunately, there is now a solution that can enable even the most anxious and fearful of patients to tolerate anything from a simple check-up to a necessary invasive procedure – sedation dentistry.
What you need to know about sedation dentistry
Sedation dentistry is the name given to the use of sedative drugs during a dental procedure. The purpose of these drugs is to enable the patient to relax enough so that the check-up or procedure can be performed both thoroughly and safely, with minimal risk to the patient. This is because patients who are anxious or afraid typically struggle to sit still. Since dental procedures require the use of small and often sharp instruments, a patient who moves around can significantly increase the likelihood of an accident occurring.
Degrees of sedation
Many people automatically think that sedation means being unconscious throughout the appointment. While a general anesthetic can render a patient unconscious and may be needed for those patients who suffer extreme, irrational fear or those who need a particularly invasive procedure, other patients may find that a lower degree of sedation is sufficient for them to tolerate a dental appointment.
Here is what you need to know about the different degrees of sedation available, which will help both you and our dentist to determine which is most suited to your individual needs.
Typically used for patients who are only marginally nervous, or who are suffering from a non-invasive procedure, this level of sedation is delivered via a mask placed over the mouth and nose. As the patient inhales the sedative, which in this case is nitrous oxide aka laughing gas, they will instantly feel calmer and more relaxed.
Administered in the form of a pill which should be taken around an hour before your procedure, moderate sedation will cause you to feel drowsy and disorientated. You will have very little awareness of what is going on around you and will not feel any pain. Moderate sedation is usually provided to patients with mid-level fear of the dentist, and those who require slightly more invasive treatment.
Usually reserved for those with intense fear or who require a fully invasive procedure such as dental implants, deep sedation is provided through drugs that are delivered intravenously. You will be on the very edge of consciousness with no awareness of what is happening around you, nor will remember anything about the procedure. It can take a number of hours for the effects of deep sedation to wear off.
If you are anxious about visiting the dentist and are interested in finding out more about sedation dentistry, our discreet and helpful team would be delighted to assist you. Your consultation with our experienced dentist will be a time where you can discuss sedation options that are available to you and together you will be able to determine which type of sedation is best suited to your needs. Contact us today for further information.