What to Know About Sedation Dentistry

Let’s face it: no matter how much you like your dentist, going to their office for a dental exam and cleaning probably isn’t your favorite thing. Most of us don’t enjoy visits to the dentist, and a few experience dental anxiety–a genuine fear or deep-seated discomfort about dental care. It’s normal and fairly common for people to experience this, so don’t worry. To help patients cope with dental anxiety, there are a variety of options. Sedation dentistry is one such option and is increasingly popular. So, what is it? Let’s look at what you need to know about sedation dentistry and whether it may be the right choice for you. 

Sedation dentistry, as the name suggests, is the use of medication to help the patient relax during dental procedures. While this may include anesthesia, sedation dentistry more commonly uses milder pharmaceutical approaches that allow for various levels of sedation depending on the patient’s needs.

  • Minimal sedation: the patient is awake and fully responsive, but relaxed.
  • Moderate sedation: also known as “conscious sedation”, in this state the patient may exhibit slurred speech and may not remember much of the procedure. 
  • Deep sedation: the patient is in an intermediate state bordering on unconsciousness, but can still be awakened.
  • General anesthesia: the patient is completely unconscious, as they would be during surgery. 

If you choose sedation dentistry, you and your dentist will discuss your options and decide upon a level of sedation that’s right for you. This is during a particular procedure. Your dentist will then explain how the process will work for you and what you can expect.

So speaking of the process, what kinds of sedation are used during sedation dentistry? There are many different sedation options available that are used depending on the procedure in question and the patient’s needs. Possible sedation methods include:

  • Nitrous Oxide: commonly known as “laughing gas”, and is a well-established tool in sedation dentistry. The patient inhales nitrous oxide via a mask, with the sedation effect appearing within a few minutes. Doses can be adjusted to attain various degrees of sedation. When the procedure is over, the dentist administers pure oxygen to flush the remaining Nitrous oxide out of the patient’s system and help them regain full consciousness. It’s a safe and easy way to help patients with dental anxiety via sedation dentistry. 
  • Oral Sedation: widely used in sedation dentistry to achieve mild or moderate sedation. It’s most commonly administered in pill form, although for children a liquid dose is sometimes used. The sedative is generally administered about an hour before the procedure, and your dentist will check to make sure it’s working before the procedure begins. Generally speaking, recovery from oral sedation is a bit slower than from nitrous oxide, so you’ll likely need someone to drive you home afterward. 
  • IV Sedation: involves using a sedative drug administered via an IV. Using IV sedation, your dentist can administer the sedative directly into your bloodstream and monitor your breathing and heart rate closely during the procedure. For most patients, sedation dentistry is akin to falling asleep in that they have no memory of what happened while they were sedated. It’s most commonly used during longer procedures, so you will need someone to drive you home after as it takes time to recover full consciousness. 

For patients dealing with dental anxiety or who balk at lengthy dental procedures, sedation dentistry can be a wonderful tool to make their time at the dentist more comfortable. It’s safe, easy, and helpful for many patients. At Hickory Dental Care, we offer a variety of sedation dentistry options and will work with you to find the right one to fit your needs. Get in touch with us today, and we’ll book an appointment to get things started.