Many people have some fear of the dentist. In fact, even dentists don’t particularly enjoy having their own teeth worked on. For a lot people this fear is so strong that it prevents them from getting in to see a dentist regularly, and small problems that are simple to solve turn into larger problems that require more time and money to fix.
Many people who have put off seeing the dentist for 10, 20 or 30 years often have been putting up with pain and regret for a long time. They usually know that they need a lot of work and often really want to get it done but feel their hands are tied by the fear they feel. Dental sedation is a real lifeline for people that need long or complicated dental procedures or that have a lot of anxiety about seeing the dentist.
Fortunately, there are several options available to make you more comfortable including:
All of the options have their place—the one you choose depends on the procedure you need, how anxious you feel, your general health, and your budget.
Many people had an experience with laughing gas at the dental office as a child but aren’t aware that it can be really useful for adults as well. We use laughing gas all the time for routine dental procedures like fillings, root canals, and extractions. For most people, nitrous oxide “takes the edge off” and makes your appointment seem shorter than it really is.
You’ll be awake and will remember most of the details of your appointment but you just won’t care about it as much. As with all of these options, we still use plenty of numbing medication, so the benefit of the gas is that you usually aren’t as bothered by the noise or the vibration/pressure of what we’re doing for you. Once the appointment is over, we turn off the gas and it leaves your system. Although you may feel a little tired, you’re able to drive yourself home and go about your day. In the rare event that you don’t like how it feels, we simply turn it off and it wears off within a couple of minutes.
There are several medications with a long safety record that help people with anxiety get through their day, and a few of these are particularly good for dental appointments that may last a couple of hours. You simply take a pill when you arrive to our office and by the time we bring you back, it usually starts to take effect. The feeling is often a little stronger than laughing gas, but still in a pleasant way.
You’re awake and talking with us, but often you won’t remember all the details of the appointment. For this reason, you’ll line up a driver to take you to the office, stay for your appointment and bring you home afterwards. While you’re usually pretty alert by the end of your appointment, some of the effects last the rest of the day so you’ll need to stay home from work and avoid driving or doing anything else too responsible.
The next day, you can go back to your normal routine. The only real downside is that we won’t know what dosage works best for you until we try it the first time. If it’s not quite as strong as you’d like then we dial in the dosage for your next appointment.
This option is what most people think of when they have a colonoscopy. We use it routinely when we remove wisdom teeth or several teeth at once. We put some medication through your arm to relax you. While the other options so far are more about reducing anxiety, this is the first one that can truly be called ‘sedation’. The goal is to keep you sedated lightly and comfortably, so you’re still breathing on your own but not too aware of what’s going on around you.
You’ll still be able to let us know if anything is bothering you and can respond to us if we ask you how you’re doing, but in many cases you won’t remember much about the appointment. We monitor your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing throughout the procedure to keep you safe, and we can make the sedation stronger or weaker as needed to keep you comfortable.
Afterwards, you’ll usually feel groggy. Just like with taking a pill, you’ll line up an escort to drive you to/from the appointment and will clear your schedule for the rest of the day. The next day you can go back to school or work.
This is what most people think of when they think of anesthesia in a hospital setting. You’ll be referred to a specialist such as an oral surgeon, who receives extensive training in providing this option safely. You’ll be sedated deeply enough that you won’t have any recollection of the procedure. This is a great option for extensive procedures or for people who have tried the other forms of sedation and still felt anxious. The cost is higher than the other options, but when it’s really needed most people feel afterwards that it was worth it!
We can help if fear is holding your back. If you think you’d be interested in sedation for some or all of your dental treatment, please call our office and we’ll be happy to go through all of your options.