Sedation for Anxious Patients
All About Sedation
If you have had negative experiences in the past that have left you afraid of dental procedures or you’ve been lucky enough not to have much experience at all in the dentist’s chair, you might be feeling anxious about an upcoming filling, extraction, or other kind of care.
At Carolina’s Dental Choice, we ensure that our patients fully understand each part of a dental procedure, and that includes sedation. Understanding what’s going to happen before, during, and after any dentist visit will ease anxiety and ensure that the patient know what to expect.
Sedation dentistry helps patients for many different reasons and procedures. Our dentists are trained and qualified to administer sedation, and will discuss your medical history and medications to determine whether you are an appropriate candidate for sedation. Sedation has minimal risks and can make all the difference in whether you experience stress, anxiety, or pain in the dentist’s chair.
If you’re concerned about upcoming dental work or have put off a visit to the dentist due to stress and anxiety, talk to Carolina’s Dental Choice about our sedation practices.
How does sedation work?
You may have seen the viral social media videos of post-dental procedure patients giggling, professing their love, and weeping at the sight of their beloved pets welcoming them home from the dentist, but don’t get too excited. Many sedation techniques used in the office are not as powerful as those needed for more major, extensive dental procedures. Your reaction to sedation most likely will not be as dramatic.
Sedation uses medications to relax patients during a dental procedure or visit. There are different levels of sedation (minimal, moderate, deep, and general anesthesia). Patients may experience a feeling of being slightly relaxed to more peaceful and drowsy to full unconsciousness. General anesthesia is done in an outpatient, surgical center, or hospital type of environment.
When is it used?
Sedation isn’t just for major dental procedures; it can be used for anything from a teeth cleaning to a filling. Sedation may be used for patients:
• With a low pain tolerance
• Who have Anxiety in the dentist’s chair
• With sensitive teeth
• With a bad gag reflex
• Who need a large amount of dental work
Children can receive sedation and typically receive nitrous oxide (laughing gas). They can also be administered oral sedation based on a recommended dose by age and weight.
What are the options?
Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is given to patients through a rubber face mask. This is one of the most common forms of sedation at a dentist, and the effects wear off very quickly in comparison to other forms of dental sedation. This is the only method where patients can drive following the procedure.
Oral sedation can range in its power from minimal to moderate, depending on the dose given. Patients will take a pill about an hour before the procedure, causing drowsiness.
Topical anesthetics (gels)
What’s significantly less frightening than the pinch of a needle? A simple cotton swab coated in topical anesthetic is commonly used to reduce sensation in the mouth or gums. Often, this kind of gel is used prior to an injection so that patients feel less when receiving injections for local anesthetic.
Intravenous (IV) sedation
Intravenous sedation requires an injection into the vein of a patient’s hand or arm. The patient will become very relaxed, but awake for the procedure. This type of sedation is most often used for extensive dental procedures or extremely anxious patients. Patients’ oxygen levels and other vital signs are measured with this type of sedation. This is a very quick-working sedation technique, which the dentist can adjust throughout the procedure.
Deep sedation/General anesthesia
This is the only method that makes a patient almost unconscious or entirely asleep. A patient cannot be easily awakened until the anesthesia wears off or its effects are reversed with medication.
Do I need a driver?
Whether you need a driver to take you home after receiving any type of sedation varies, depending on the type of sedation and procedure. Your dentist will tell you prior to the procedure whether you will need a driver and how long you should anticipate feeling the effects of sedation. Having a ride home is never a bad thing.
How else can I cope with stress at the dental office?
There are some easy ways to make yourself more comfortable in the dental chair.
• Wear clothes that feel good and that aren’t too difficult to get over your head in the event that your mouth is sore.
• Bring your own music. Whether it’s Beethoven, AC/DC, Justin Bieber, or an audiobook you know what you like. Load up some tunes on your smartphone and put on your headphones.
• Keep your hands busy. A squeeze ball, worry stone, or stuffed animal is great to hold.
• Breathe in deep. A few drops of lavender essential oil goes a long way. Put a drop behind each ear and, if the smells at the dentist’s office bother you, place a drop just under the tip of your nose.