Understanding Sedation Dentistry

Trips to the dentist may invite anxiety for some people. However, oral hygiene is extremely important to your dental health as well as your overall health and confidence. Unfortunately, fear keeps some adults from visiting the dentist regularly. Fear and anxiety can also make a trip to the dentist with your child difficult.

Thankfully, your dentist can help reduce the apprehension or enable your child to get needed dental work with sedation. Here is what you need to know about sedation dentistry.  

What Is Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation dentistry employs the use of different medications to help you relax before and during your appointment. Sedation dentistry is also sometimes used on young children when they must have a complicated procedure or they won’t or can’t cooperate. 

Sedation in children has more risks associated with it, so parents need to ask questions and choose a dentist experienced in pediatric sedation dentistry. There are different levels of sedation available.

What Types of Sedation Are Available?

Your dentist may use some or all of the different types of sedation available. Dentists often use sedation medications in conjunction with local anesthetic injections that numb your mouth while the dentist works on your teeth. Most people call this Novocain, but this drug is no longer used as better ones are available. Most dentists now use Lidocaine instead.  

Inhaled Sedation

One of the most commonly used types of sedation dentistry is nitrous oxide. This is commonly called laughing gas. While you may not necessarily be laughing, you will feel very relaxed. The effect is similar to having a couple of glasses of wine, but the effects quickly wear off after the dentist removes the nasal breathing apparatus. In fact, the effects are so short-lived, you can usually drive yourself home immediately following your appointment.

Oral Sedation

Also referred to as enteral sedation, oral sedation is taking a medication by mouth. The prescription drug Halcion, which is normally prescribed for insomniacs, is a common choice among dentists. Be sure to let your dentist know if you are on any opioid medications as their use is contraindicated with Halcion. You should also avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice as it can increase side effects.

Your dentist will have you take the prescribed dosage, which is a smaller dose that that prescribed for insomnia, about an hour before your appointment. The medication will have a calming effect and will make you drowsy. Halcion can also impair your memory. If your dentist prescribes Halcion, they will likely tell you to have someone drive you to and from your appointment.

Intravenous Medication

With intravenous medication, your dentist or the nurse will start an IV in a vein in your hand or arm to inject the medication directly. Frequently used medications include midazolam, propofol, ketamine, and dexmedetomidine. The dentist uses these drugs when they want to induce a deeper level of sedation.

While you may still be awake, you will be very relaxed and have less awareness of what is going on. Some people do drift off. Intravenous medications have more risks associated with them, particularly respiratory depression and lowered blood pressure and heart rate.

Your dentist will monitor your vital signs when using intravenous medication. Dentists who provide intravenous medication as part of their sedation dentistry practice must receive specialized training.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia, where you are completely unconscious, is typically only used in extreme cases. For example, if your wisdom teeth are impacted and must be surgically removed or a child is developmentally disabled and unable to have their teeth worked on, your dentist may recommend general anesthesia.

While sedation dentistry does have its risks, the benefits often outweigh the alternative — not going to the dentist at all. Contact us today to discuss your sedation dentistry options and make an appointment.