Sedation dentistry has transformed dental treatments for countless patients who, until its inception, found it difficult or impossible to tolerate dental treatment. Contrary to popular belief, sedation dentistry isn’t only for patients who are anxious or fearful about visiting their dentist or undergoing dental treatment. It is also exceedingly valuable for those patients with cognitive or physical disabilities that prevent them from accessing conventional dental appointments, for example, those with an inability to sit still, hold their mouth open or even those that lack the ability to follow basic instructions.
Sedation dentistry refers to the use of medicines to induce specific effects that make it easier for the patient to tolerate a dental appointment. Exactly what these effects will be will depend on the type of sedation being used.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to sedation dentistry, and instead, patients are assessed on an individual basis to determine which type of sedation will be best suited to their needs and the type of dental appointment they are having. Dentists that offer sedation will nearly always recommend the lowest possible form of sedation based on the type of procedure you are having. This is primarily done for safety reasons, but equally, there is often no need to have very deep sedation for a basic and non-invasive or minimally-invasive appointment. It is important to note that sedation is not the same as local anesthetic. Anesthetic is used to numb the area being worked on so that you don’t feel any pain.
Here’s what you need to know about the different types of sedation dentistry available.
Nitrous Oxide, also known as laughing gas, is the lightest form of sedation and is administered via a mask placed over the nose during the procedure. All the time you are inhaling the gas, you will feel calmer and more relaxed, but your senses won’t be impaired, and you will retain full awareness of what is happening around you. As soon as you stop breathing the gas, the effects will wear off within a few minutes and you will be able to drive yourself home after your procedure if you wish.
Oral sedation is the next level of sedation and as its name suggests, it is administered orally in the form of a pill or capsule taken around an hour before your procedure/treatment. The effects are more significant, with most patients feeling deeply calm and relaxed and having some awareness of what is happening around them but are not fully alert. They will also be more compliant to instructions. The effects can take several hours or more to wear off, and you will not be able to drive yourself home after your appointment.
IV conscious sedation is the deepest form available and as its name explains, the medication is delivered intravenously by a needle placed into your arm or hand. The effects of this sedation place patients on the edge of consciousness, where they are awake but the world around them almost seems dream-like and they are completely calm and relaxed. Again, the effects can take a long time to wear off and patients who opt for this level of sedation, which is usually reserved for moderate to severely disabled patients and those who are having extensive or invasive dental treatment, will need someone to take them home and stay with them for at least a short while afterward.
Which sedation is right for you will be based on your individual circumstances. Please contact our offices to schedule an appointment with our expert team who will determine which sedation you need and explain this selection in greater detail.