Some people are so frightened of going to the dentist that they not only miss regular checkups but will also be reluctant to seek help when something is wrong with their teeth or mouth. The good news is sedation dentistry was developed to help these types of people. The goal of sedation dentistry is to not only relieve pain but put patients in such a relaxed state that being in the dentist’s chair no longer terrifies them. This not only allows them to better cooperate with the dentist during any procedure, but makes them amendable to coming back for follow-up care or regular check-ups. It’s different from regular dentistry because the body and mind are relaxed. In regular dentistry, the patient sinply receives a shot to numb the area of their mouth that’s to be worked on.
What is Sedation Dentistry?
- There are several types of sedation dentistry, and all but one of them keep the patient awake. Only general anesthesia, which is used for children and adults who are truly phobic about the dentist, puts the patient to sleep. The dentist may ask the patient to not eat or drink at least eight hours before their procedure.
- During mild sedation the person is awake and alert but in a state of relaxation. This type of sedation involves laughing gas, or nitrous oxide that is mixed with oxygen. The good thing about laughing gas is that it wears off so quickly that the patient can drive themselves home after their appointment. Mild sedation can also involve oral sedation, usually in the form of Valium or Halcion. Some dentists give their patients oral sedation to be taken the night before the treatment, while others have their patients take the pill an hour before. The oral sedative can also be a liquid. The patient may need to have someone drive them home after oral sedation, because they may still be a little groggy after the procedure.
- With moderate sedation, the person is awake but will probably not remember their treatment. Dentists prescribe oral sedatives for moderate sedation and can also give the patient a sedative via an IV drip. The patient needs to be driven home and may need to rest for a while.
- With deep sedation, the patient is just on the brink of falling asleep but is awake enough to follow the dentist’s instructions. The patient also receives an IV drip during this type of sedation. Dentists who use deep sedation are often specialists or use an anesthesiologist who specializes in dental procedures.
- If the patient is given general anesthesia, they will need to recover in the dentist’s office before they go home.
Besides these techniques, the patient may receive a local anesthetic that targets the area in the mouth where the dentist is going to work. The anesthetic is usually delivered via a needle. In some cases, the patient is given an inferior alveolar nerve block, which basically numbs that entire side of the face including the lower lip and sometimes part of the tongue.
Who’s a Good Candidate for Sedation Dentistry?
The dentist will consider the patient’s medical history to be sure they are a good candidate for any type of sedation dentistry. Some people who have medical problems such as obstructive sleep apnea or obesity or are on certain medications might have trouble having the deeper forms of sedation. If the patient is a child, their weight and their age need to be taken into consideration in order for them to get the proper dosage of sedation or anesthesia.
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