The American Dental Association estimates that 22% of Americans avoid dental visits due to fear and anxiety. Putting off dental visits increases the risk of tooth loss, severe dental infections, or even oral cancer. Fortunately, dentists are now using dental sedation techniques which are aimed at helping patients obtain the necessary dental care without the characteristic pain and anxiety.
The following types of sedation are used in dentistry:
Inhaled Minimal Sedation
You breathe nitrous oxide — otherwise known as “laughing gas” — combined with oxygen through a mask that’s placed over your nose. The gas helps you relax. Your dentist can control the amount of sedation you receive, and the gas tends to wear off after breathing pure oxygen for 1-2 minutes This is the only form of sedation where you may be able to drive yourself home after the procedure.
Depending on the total dose given, oral sedation can range from minimal to moderate. For minimal sedation, you take a pill. Typically, the pill is Halcion, which is a member of the same drug family as Valium, and it’s usually taken about an hour before the procedure. The pill will make you drowsy, although you’ll still be awake. A larger dose may be given to produce moderate sedation. This is the type of anesthesia most commonly associated with sedation dentistry. Some people become groggy enough from moderate oral sedation to actually fall asleep during the procedure. They usually can, though, be awakened with a gentle shake.
IV Moderate Sedation
You receive the sedative drug through a vein, so it goes to work more quickly. This method allows the anesthesiologist to continually adjust the level of sedation.
Deep Sedation & General Anesthesia
We use a certified anesthesiologist to administer medications that will make you either almost unconscious or totally unconscious — deeply asleep — during the procedure. While you are under general anesthesia, you cannot easily be awakened until the effects of the anesthesia wear off or are reversed with medication. This kind of sedation requires a family member or friend to drive you home after your procedure.