Does fear of the dentist prevent you from getting the dental care you need? About one-third of American adults have dental anxiety, with an estimated 12% having extreme fear that prevents them from going to the dentist. Fortunately, there are many ways to relieve dental anxiety.
First and foremost, you should always communicate your fears with your dentist – here at Dental Care of Glen Ellyn, we are always happy to discuss any concerns you may have, and adapt our approach as necessary. Other tips for reducing dental anxiety include bringing headphones and music, and practicing relaxation techniques or breathing exercises during your appointment. For our most anxious patients, as well as patients with decreased sensitivity to local anesthetics and special needs individuals, we can also offer comfortable and simple sedation services.
What is Sedation Dentistry?
Sedation dentistry is the administration of sedatives to promote relaxation and calm during a dental procedure, and often makes patients feel drowsy, euphoric and pain-free. There are three main categories of sedation dentistry: minimal sedation (oral sedation), laughing gas (nitrous oxide), and IV (intravenous) sedation. After discussing with a patient their needs and wants as well as their upcoming dental procedure, the dentist will decide on the appropriate sedation type.
Minimal Sedation (Oral Sedation)
For minimal sedation, some patients opt to take an oral sedative (benzodiazepines, e.g. triazolam, zaleplon or lorazepam) one hour prior to their appointment. These anxiety reducing sedatives act rapidly, and allow patients to remain fully conscious during their treatment but feel more relaxed. However, sometimes it can be difficult to induce the sedative effect for some patients using minimal sedation. The effects of these pills last anywhere from two to eight hours, so patients opting for minimal sedation should arrange for someone to drive them home after their appointment.
Laughing Gas (Nitrous Oxide)
Known as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide has pain relieving and anxiety reducing properties, and often leads to feelings of euphoria and extreme relaxation. When using nitrous oxide as a sedative, your dentist carefully adjusts the precise amount required for each patient and procedure. When using nitrous oxide on its own, patients can typically head out the door immediately after their appointment due to its short lived effects. But when used in combination with sleep sedation, patients require someone to drive them home as well as supervision for 24 hours after the procedure.
IV (intravenous) sedation is the deepest form of sedation dentistry, and delivers sedatives and other drugs directly into the bloodstream via an IV line. During the procedure, the dentist monitors the patient’s heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels, and can adjust dosage and administer reversal medications if necessary. Depending on the level of sedation desired, IV sedation can induce varying stages of consciousness from moderate to deep sedation, and is also highly effective at blocking pain. Most people who choose IV sedation fall into a relaxed sleep and have little to no memory of their treatment upon waking. It is a wonderful option for people with extreme dental anxiety or for those undergoing lengthy procedures, with very few risks but many benefits. The effects will last 12 to 24 hours after the procedure, so patients who undergo IV sedation will need someone to drive them home afterwards and should also avoid operating heavy machinery for 24 hours after their treatment.
Oral health is too important to ignore, so if fear of the dentist has kept you from getting the dental care you need and deserve, please call us to explore your options for a fear-free, pain-free and entirely easy dentist visit! If you are considering sedation dentistry, please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information or a consultation and we will be happy to help.
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