Sedation dentistry is a term that refers to the use of anesthesia during treatment to put patients into a relaxed state, almost like sleep. Sedation dentistry is often used during procedures that require an extensive amount of time in the treatment chair, and sedation is ideal for patients who exhibit dental phobia or have difficulty controlling their movements (this includes children). While sedation dentistry implies that patients are unconscious, this is usually not the case. Some forms of sedation dentistry simply alleviate anxiety or put patients in a sleep-like state, so that little is felt or remembered from the dentistry procedure.
Anti-anxiety agents, such as nitrous oxide, or sedatives may help you relax during dental visits and often may be used along with local anesthetics. Dentists also can use these agents to induce "conscious sedation," in which the patient achieves a relaxed state during treatment but can respond to speech or touch. Sedatives can be administered before, during or after dental procedures by mouth, inhalation or injection. More complex treatments may require drugs that can induce "deep sedation," causing a loss of feeling and reducing consciousness in order to relieve both pain and anxiety. On occasion, patients undergo "general anesthesia," in which drugs cause a temporary loss of consciousness. Deep sedation and general anesthesia may be recommended in certain procedures for children or others who have severe anxiety or who have difficulty controlling their movements.
Sedation Dentistry Information
There are different types and degrees of dental sedation; the sedation dentistry technique recommended by your dentist will depend upon the treatment being performed and/or the degree of your dental anxiety. Your dentist will be able to tell you if you are a candidate for moderate sedation with oral sedatives or nitrous oxide, or deeper sedation with intravenous drugs.
Sedation Dentistry Candidates
Candidates for sedation dentistry include patients with a fear of needles or other dental anxiety, as well as individuals who require complex treatment and would like their treatment performed during a single, pain-free visit.
Some patients (including children) have a natural fear of the dentist, while others have had a traumatic dental experience in their past that has made them reluctant to seek treatment again. Many patients find their anxiety is eased when they undergo procedures while in a sleep-like state.
Dental Sedation Methods
Several medications are available to help create more relaxed, comfortable dental visits. Some drugs control pain, some help you relax, and others put you into a deep sleep during dental treatment. You and your dentist can discuss a number of factors when deciding which drugs to use for your treatment: the type of procedure, your overall health, history of allergies and your anxiety level are considered when determining which approach is best for your particular case. Working together you and your dentist can choose the most appropriate steps to make your dental visit as comfortable as possible.
Many patients assume sedation dentistry will put them to sleep; however, sedation dentistry techniques that can be utilized to achieve varying degrees of relaxation. Learn more about sedation dentistry methods.
Oral sedative medications such as diazepam can be given to a patient the night before a dentistry procedure or 30 minutes to an hour before the dental appointment, depending on the severity of the anxiety. Oral sedatives do not provide pain relief, so an injection of local anesthetic will also be administered.
- Intravenous or IV Sedation
Like oral sedatives, intravenous (IV) sedation does not provide pain relief, so an injection of local anesthetic will also be administered in conjunction with this method of dental sedation.
- Nitrous Oxide Sedation or Gas Sedation
In one form of conscious inhalation sedation, nitrous oxide gas (also known as laughing gas) is used to induce a state of relaxation. A local anesthetic will be administered in combination with nitrous oxide sedation to eliminate pain.
This method of dental sedation refers to the use of anesthetic to render the patient unconscious. Unlike other sedation methods, the patient will be completely unaware of his or her surroundings, making the use of local anesthetic unnecessary.