Everyone who goes to the dentist will probably admit to feeling a little bit nervous from time to time, even if they’re not a generally fearful person, but what they may not realise is that dental sedation can help visiting the dentist a stress-free experience. It’s easier for patient and surgeon if both parties are relaxed, it means there is less likely to be complications and everyone can benefit from faster, easier surgery. If you have a fear of the dentist, book a consultation with the Pearl Dental Clinic to discuss your treatment and the possible need for sedation, their friendly team have dealt with all degrees of dental phobia, so don’t worry about feeling embarrassed.
Dental sedation is a process that uses medication to relax the patient and ensure a smooth surgical experience, it’s very helpful with patients who are terrified of even entering the clinic, but are in need of dental treatment. Common types of sedation include tranquilisers and anxiolytics – which are used to treat people with anxiety disorders.
A lot of people may associate sedation with falling asleep or being unconscious while the surgery is carried out, but this is not entirely accurate; sedation techniques will probably make you feel drowsy, but it won’t lead to unconsciousness – the idea is just to relax you enough so that you don’t feel afraid or anxious, not to completely knock you out. Dental surgeons generally prefer to have their patients awake and somewhat lucid as they carry out the operation, it’s safer for the patient and it reduces the chance of complications. Don’t get sedation confused with anaesthesia either, the latter is administered so that you can’t feel any pain; the former is primarily to lower anxiety levels in nervous patients.
Almost everyone who is nervous about undergoing a dental procedure could benefit from taking some type of sedatives, with the exception of people who have specific medical conditions that exclude them. If you’re not sure about how your health could affect your treatment, talk to your GP and your dentist, they will be able to advise you on how best to proceed.
People who are extremely anxious about going to the dentist are generally ideal candidates for sedation, without some kind of relaxant they are likely to disrupt the surgery or cause it to be abandoned – some patients are so scared they won’t even get past the anaesthetic injection. It’s possible that this extreme kind of distress stems from past experience, or it may just be a crippling fear of the unknown, whatever the reason; dental phobia can seriously impinge on their daily lives, particularly if they have some painful toothache that they are too afraid to deal with.
Other people who can benefit from sedation are those who have a very sensitive gag reflex that makes it difficult to just examine the teeth, let alone perform more complicated surgical procedures. This can sometimes just be an individual complaint, or it may be part of a more severe health condition that affects muscle control, such as Cerebral Palsy. Relaxing the muscles with use of sedatives will prevent any sudden movements and allow the dentist to go ahead with the treatment uninhibited.
There are several different types of sedation, but the three most commonly used are; oral conscious sedation, inhalation sedation, and IV sedation. They are administered in different ways, but are all designed to achieve the same goal; a relaxed patient who is more compliant and able to undergo surgery.
Oral conscious sedation – This is a type of sedative that your dentist will advise you to take orally the night before your appointment, and then again when you wake up in the morning. You won’t slip into unconsciousness, but you may start to feel sleepy and less aware of what’s going on around you, so you should organise travel to and from the surgery beforehand – driving in this condition is a bad idea. After being under oral sedation, you probably won’t remember much of what happened during the surgery, even though you will still be awake.
Sedatives of this kind may dull your reactions to pain or other stimuli, but it won’t numb you completely, your dentist will still have to administer anaesthetic before surgery can begin.
Inhalation sedation – More commonly known as ‘laughing gas’, Nitrous Oxide is used to calm the patient and to block the pain receptors, so there’s no need for an anaesthetic injection. Inhalation sedation takes effect very quickly and will leave you feeling happy and agreeable. It’s also useful because it isn’t long lasting, after the surgery is over, you will quickly return to normal, with only vague memories of the procedure itself. A lot of dentists like to use laughing gas because it doesn’t render the patient unconscious and it combines sedation with pain relief, allowing them to perform the treatment more efficiently. However, it can be dangerous if supplied in too high a dose, most clinics use a ratio of 70% Oxygen to 30% Nitrous Oxide, which is an acceptable amount.
IV sedation – This is an intravenous sedative, meaning it has to be administered through a needle, directly into the patients’ blood stream. Using a thin needle, your dentist will insert a tube into your arm that is then attached to the drug supply to inject it into your body. Some patients are nervous about needles, so will want to avoid this type of sedation; however, it’s worth knowing that it is a very fast and effective way to keep you feeling sleepy and relaxed. Although you may feel drowsy with an IV sedative, you won’t actually fall asleep; you remain conscious throughout the surgery and should be able to have a semi-coherent conversation with your dentist – although you may not remember it afterwards.