What Is Sedation Dentistry?
Sedation dentistry uses medication to help patients relax during dental procedures, especially those with dental anxiety, a lifelong phobia of dental surgery, or those simply feeling a bit uneasy about an upcoming dental procedure. Sedation dentistry is sometimes referred to as "sleep dentistry," although that term is not entirely accurate. Patients are typically awake during sedation dentistry, with the exception of those who undergo general anesthesia, which is increasingly rare these days.
Although modern root canal therapy and other oral surgery are virtually pain-free, thanks to local anesthetic and modern advances in technology, many patients still report being very nervous about such procedures. For these patients who need this level of dental care, several different types of sedation dentistry may provide suitable options to overcome fear, anxiety and dental phobias.
Which Sedation Dentistry Technique is Right for Me?
Depending on the level of anxiety or fear present in the patient, there are multiple dental sedation options to consider:
- Nitrous Oxide: Nitrous oxide is the mildest form of dental sedation. Commonly known as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide is very safe, with few risks or side effects. Nitrous oxide also takes effect quickly and wears off just as quickly, so patients are typically able to drive themselves home from following the procedure. Nitrous oxide can relax patients, but they remain conscious and aware of their surroundings while the gas is being administered. Dental assistants place a small mask over the patient’s nose, who then breathes in a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide. The amount used can be adjusted throughout the procedure and as determined necessary by the dental surgery team. Most patients are good candidates for nitrous oxide sedation, but those who have COPD, emphysema, or other conditions (such as recent cases of COVID-19) that cause difficulties with breathing should pursue an alternative to nitrous oxide treatment.
- Conscious Oral Sedation: Conscious oral sedation is an alternative minimal sedation that, like nitrous oxide, allows the patient to remain awake but feeling more relaxed during a dental operation. It’s considered well-suited for patients who require a deeper level of sedation than that offered by nitrous oxide, but who prefer to avoid intravenous sedation. Dentists will often prescribe an anti-anxiety medication for the patient to take prior to the procedure, as an accompanying medication to conscious oral sedation. Because it can take a few hours for the effects of this procedure to wear off, patients need to have someone drive them to and from the appointment.
- Intravenous Sedation: Intravenous sedation, or IV sedation, is ideal for patients who suffer from more serious dental phobia and severe anxiety. For the patient’s safety, IV sedation services are performed by board-certified dentist anesthesiologists. Sedation is administered through a vein, which allows the medication to work quickly. Technically speaking, the patient remains conscious during the procedure, but will be in a semi-awake state and have little to no memory of undergoing the treatment once it’s complete. Because of this, patients often feel as if they’ve slept through their procedure, but they technically remain awake throughout.
Again, modern dental surgery, like root canal procedures, are largely pain-free in this day and age. Still, many patients have anxiety about the procedure, which is understandable, given their history and reputations. The good news is that there are a range of dental sedation options for you to consider, from mild nitrous oxide to IV sedation, to ensure your comfort and allow you to receive necessary dental care and important oral procedures.
The team at Elite Endodontics of NH is ready to assist you in getting comfortable dental care. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.