Tuesday, July 17th, 2018
One of the most common fears in North America is the fear of dentists. Up to a fifth of the population reports some level of anxiety associated with the dentist’s office. And while most people can bear down and overcome their fear, many of us can hardly even contemplate making a trip for even the most basic procedures or maintenance appointment. While there are many recommended techniques for handling your dental fears, some patients do not respond to the most caring dentist or psychological treatments. For these individuals, sedation dentistry might be their only hope. Sedation dentistry relies on the use of different pharmacological agents in order to help patients experience a more calming and relaxing dental appointment. Various levels of sedation may be used, depending on the level of fear experienced by the patient. For the most part, dentists want to use minimal levels of sedation that can reduce levels of anxiety while allowing patients to respond to verbal and physical cues. More moderate levels of sedation bring deeper levels of relaxation but limit responses only to purposeful stimulation. Finally, in the deepest levels of sedation, the patient will essentially be unconscious and unresponsive to verbal, physical, and purposeful stimulation.
Sedation is delivered via three common methods: inhalation, oral, and intravenous sedation. Inhalation sedation refers to the use of nitrous oxide (also known as “laughing gas”) to provide a minimal calming effect as well as analgesic effects. Oral sedation tends to be deeper sedation and involves the use of anti-anxiety pills or liquids. Finally, intravenous sedation provides the deepest level of sedation and relies on the use of drugs administered directly to the blood stream through the use of an intravenous needle.
So how do you know if sedation dentistry is right for you? First of all, most dentists will only consider sedation for patients suffering from intense fear or anxiety. If you have difficulty remaining calm during your appointment and you prefer to be unaware of the treatment or procedure, sedation dentistry might be a good option. Even if you just need a little help to relax, your dentist may choose to use inhalation sedation, or laughing gas, so that you feel more comfortable.
Specific examples where sedation dentistry is recommended include:
Unfortunately, sedation dentistry is not ideal for every patient. As a patient, you should always remember that it is your dentist’s responsibility to create a comforting and empathetic environment for you to receive procedures. You should not consider sedation if you are worried about the affect you have on your dentist or if you have issues with loss of control. Also, if you feel you would benefit from a more caring approach where your dentist can talk you through procedures and put your mind at ease, sedation is not a good choice. Finally, never allow your dentist to pressure or bully you into sedation. Ultimately, the choice is yours and you should be seeking a trusting and respectful dental environment and caring dental professionals.