There probably aren’t many people who look forward to going to the dentist. Unlike a fun sporting event or dinner with friends, going to the dentist can cause a lot of anxiety and stress. Dental anxiety can lead to a level of panic that causes people to avoid going to the dentist entirely— something that can lead to long-term health effects.
There are a handful of ways dental professionals can manage dental anxiety in children and adults alike. Today, we’ll be taking a deeper dive into one of these options: sedation dentistry.
So, What Is Sedation Dentistry, Really?
Sedation dentistry is a method used to help relax patients during dental procedures by using medication. There are a few levels of sedation that range from minimal sedation to general anesthesia.
In minimal, moderate, and deep sedation, the patient is awake but relaxed. In general anesthesia, the patient is unconscious during the procedure.
What Kinds of Sedation Are Used?
There are a few kinds of sedation used in this practice, including:
- Inhaled sedation (“Laughing gas”): The patient breathes in nitrous oxide through a mask, which relaxes them during the procedure.
- Oral sedation: The patient takes a pill before the procedure that makes them drowsy. They are still able to respond to commands and follow directions, but they may not remember the procedure afterward.
- IV sedation: This is administered through the veins and puts the patient in a deeper state of relaxation. The patient may not be able to remember the procedure. This method allows the doctor to continually adjust the levels of sedation.
- General anesthesia: This is a medication that makes the patient deeply asleep and unconscious during the procedure. You cannot be easily awakened until the anesthesia wears off. This method is most commonly used for dental surgeries like wisdom teeth removal.
Oral sedation and “laughing gas” are the most common forms of sedation dentistry. Laughing gas is the only type of sedation where you can drive yourself home afterward. If you use the other forms of sedation, someone else will have to drive you home.
For oral sedation, your dentist will write you a prescription for a drug and give you directions on how to take it before the procedure. You don’t have to prepare to receive nitrous oxide— your dentist will supply what you need before, during, and after the procedure.
Depending on the type of sedation, your dentist may ask you to fast (aka, not eat or drink anything) for a few hours before the procedure. You may also need to avoid certain medications the day before in case they interfere with the sedation. However, don’t adjust anything with your medications unless your dentist tells you to.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Sedation Dentistry?
If you have a fear or anxiety about going to the dentist, sedation dentistry may be a good option for you. This includes people who:
- Have very sensitive teeth
- Have trouble numbing with Novocaine
- Have a strong gag reflex
- Are getting multiple procedures done at once
- Need surgery but are afraid of being put to sleep
Children can also be given small doses of nitrous oxide to help calm intense anxiety or if they refuse to cooperate. It is safe for children, and most dentists are qualified to administer it.
Is It Safe?
Sedation dentistry is generally safe, although there are always some risks when getting anesthesia. People with obesity or obstructive sleep apnea should talk to their doctor beforehand because they can be more likely to develop complications from anesthesia.
As with any medication, there is always a small risk of an allergic reaction. Be sure to tell your dentist about any allergies you have before the procedure.
Follow these tips to ensure a completely safe experience:
- Discuss your medical history with your dentist beforehand
- Ask what dose is appropriate for your age and health
- Learn how much experience the dentist has with sedation
- Go over risks thoroughly with your dentist
- Ensure the dentist has oxygen and drugs that reverse the effects of sedation nearby in case you need them
What Happens After the Procedure?
You will be monitored for a short time after the sedation wears off to make sure you are okay to go home. It is important not to drink or eat anything until the numbness from the Novocaine (if used) wears off completely to avoid choking.
Be sure to have someone drive you home after sedation dentistry, as it can take a few hours for the effects to wear off completely.
Can Any Dentist Perform It?
Most dentists are qualified to administer nitrous oxide, but other types of sedation require additional training and certifications. Most of the country requires dentists to have a sedation license to administer other forms of sedation, so not every dental office will be able to provide the services you’re looking for. If sedation dentistry is something you’re interested in, you can call around to offices in your area and find out if they have a certified dentist on staff.
How Much Does It Cost?
The cost of sedation dentistry varies depending on the type of sedation used and the length of the procedure. Inhaled sedation is usually the cheapest, while general anesthesia is the most expensive.
Most dental insurance plans cover sedation dentistry, but you should check with your provider to be sure. Some plans require you to pay a deductible or copayment for sedation services.
Explore Pain-Free Dentistry at Wayzata Dental
Here at Wayzata Dental, our mission is to provide accessible, pain-free dentistry without drills or Novocaine. We provide laser dentistry for patients who don’t want to use sedation. In fact, we’re the only dental office in the Twin Cities area that offers this innovative practice!