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Sedation Dentistry

Sedation Dentistry: Types and What to Expect

Did you know that around 13% of people in New Zealand suffer from dental anxiety? Dental anxiety is more than a simple reluctance to go to the dentist. Dental anxiety can sometimes keep someone from going to the dentist at all or it may provoke a panic attack in certain cases.

Fortunately, sedating dentistry can help both adults and children who suffer from dental anxiety. But what is sedation dentistry, you might ask? What are the different types of sedation you can choose from? 

Why should you choose sedation dentistry in the first place? Keep reading and learn more about how sedation dentistry works and how being sedated can be very beneficial for those who suffer from dental anxiety or dental phobia. 

Understanding Dental Anxiety and Dental Fear

Dental anxiety is quite a common condition but some have it more severe than others. For example, a person with a slight case of dental anxiety may simply be nervous about going to the dentist. They may dislike going to the dentist for one reason or another, but they still end up making themselves go because they know it is important for their dental health. 

On the other hand, some people with severe dental anxiety or dental fear have a much harder time going to the dentist. Such a person might make up excuses to avoid going to a dental appointment or he may refuse to go to the appointment altogether. If you were to force a person with dental fear to go to the dentist, he may exhibit signs of severe anxiety and may even have a panic attack. 

In children, the child may have a fit or start crying upon entering the dentist’s office or when the dentist is ready to start the dental procedure at hand. Dental anxiety can be a big problem for both children and adults. If a person avoids going to the dentist because he is afraid, he will put his dental health at risk. 

Going to the dentist once or twice a year is essential for good dental health. Without having a professional check up on your teeth every so often, you’ll have no idea whether or not your teeth are actually in good shape. You might have cavities beginning to form or you might have gingivitis and not even know it. 

What You Need to Know

Some people with dental anxiety might not even go to the dentist even if they have a serious dental problem such as an advanced cavity, tooth decay, or advanced gum disease. Of course, this is an especially dangerous problem because these dental conditions can quickly get worse without treatment and wreak havoc upon one’s oral health. 

Some dental problems, such as a tooth infection, can spread to the rest of the body and cause serious, if not fatal, consequences. There are many ways to soothe dental anxiety such as by practising breathing techniques. However, some traditional ways of coping with dental anxiety don’t work for some people. 

In that case, it may be a good idea to pursue sedation dentistry from anxiety dentists. But what can you expect from sedation dentistry and what are the different types? 

Sedation Dentistry With Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide is one of the most common sedatives used in the dentist’s office. It has also been used for a long time, so you can be sure that it is quite safe. Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is a type of gas that you inhale through a special machine.

When it’s time for your dental procedure, your dentist will provide you with a mask that you will put over your mouth. This mask is connected to a machine that dispenses nitrous oxide at a certain rate. As you breathe through the mask, the nitrous oxide will enter your lungs and start to affect your body. 

You will start to feel relaxed and more carefree. Any anxiety you might have had over the dental procedure at hand will soon vanish. Keep in mind that nitrous oxide will not render you unconscious like more serious sedatives. 

Instead, nitrous oxide is a type of conscious sedation. This means that you will remain conscious for the duration of the procedure. However, you will be less aware of what is going on around you. 

People who use nitrous oxide as a sedative often lose track of time. Overall, you will feel very relaxed and any agitation you might have been experiencing before will melt away. The effects of nitrous oxide don’t last very long, so your dentist will likely need to continue administering the gas to you throughout the dental procedure, especially if your procedure is quite long. 

The Details

The great thing about this type of sedation is that you can still drive yourself home afterwards. As mentioned before, nitrous oxide doesn’t last very long in the body and the effects go away even faster when the dentist provides you with pure oxygen to inhale. Pure oxygen pushes nitrous oxide out of the body at a faster rate. 

So, when your procedure is done and it’s time to go home, you won’t have to worry about feeling woozy or being unable to drive. Most people who choose to be sedated with nitrous oxide don’t experience any side effects. This is especially true if the dentist administers the gas properly and does it gradually rather than giving you a big dose all at once. 

If you do happen to experience some side effects, you should know that they are very minor. Some people may experience dizziness, fatigue, or nausea. These side effects do not last very long and they tend to go away after the nitrous oxide wears off. 

Nitrous oxide is ideal for minor dental procedures such as teeth whitening, dental fillings, and dental cleanings. The gas will also make you less aware of any discomfort you might feel from a procedure. However, you may need a stronger sedative for more invasive and painful dental procedures such as tooth extraction. 

Oral and Intravenous Sedation 

For more invasive dental procedures or for those who suffer from extreme dental anxiety or dental fear, oral or intravenous sedation may be necessary. Intravenous sedation involves injecting the sedative into the body using a cannula. The cannula is typically inserted into a vein on the back of your hand or a vein on the inside of your arm. 

You shouldn’t be worried about the cannula hurting. It is a very simple procedure and it should only feel like a small prick. Once the cannula is in, you will be given a small amount of the sedative over a period of time before the dental procedure starts. 

It is important to start slowly because giving too much sedation all at once could be dangerous and it could also increase the risk of side effects. Because the amount of sedation that will enter your body will start small, you will feel yourself slowly becoming more tired and relaxed. Keep in mind that normal intravenous sedation is not the same as general anaesthesia. 

For that reason, you will not be rendered unconscious once the sedative takes effect. Similar to nitrous oxide, you will be conscious during the procedure. Unlike nitrous oxide, an intravenous sedative is quite strong and it will leave you feeling very tired and relaxed. 

This kind of sedative will help distract you from the stress of the procedure at hand and you shouldn’t feel any pain or discomfort. You will get a continuous drip of this sedation throughout the procedure. This will ensure that the effects of the sedative stay relatively constant throughout the procedure. 

What to Know

If you get too much sedative, you will become unconscious and if you don’t get enough, you will start to come back to your senses and you may start to exhibit signs of dental anxiety again.

Oral sedation is similar to intravenous sedation in terms of its strength. It will help you relax and become less aware of your surroundings. 

All you need to do is swallow a pill. However, you will need to think ahead when using oral sedation. This is because pills tend to take quite a long time before they kick in. For most people, oral sedation takes around 30 minutes to an hour to work. 

Those with slow metabolisms are more likely to wait a longer period of time before the effects kick in. On the other hand, those with fast metabolisms may only need to wait around 20 minutes before the oral sedation finally starts to work. You will also want to ensure that the oral sedation will last for the duration of the procedure.

This is especially important for long or complicated dental procedures. The last thing you want is for the sedation to wear off in the middle of an important procedure. For that reason, it may be more convenient to opt for intravenous sedation rather than oral sedation for long procedures. 

General Anaesthesia

General anaesthesia is not often used for dental procedures since it needs to be administered in a hospital environment. However, general anaesthesia is usually necessary for serious dental operations and surgery. For example, if you have wisdom teeth that are impacted and below the surface of your gum line, you will likely need to get these teeth surgically removed. 

Because this procedure is very invasive, lengthy, and painful, it is best that you be rendered unconscious for the duration of the procedure. Oral surgeons and dentists also opt for general anaesthesia in cases involving jaw reshaping or realigning. General anaesthesia is a very powerful sedative and it will be administered to you through an IV. 

You will slowly start to feel more and more tired until you are unconscious. When you are unconscious, you will not be aware of the procedure or the world around you. As such, you also won’t feel any pain during the procedure. 

It will be very similar to being asleep. When you wake up, the procedure will be done. You will likely wake up a few hours after you first receive the anaesthesia.

The Downside

The downside of anaesthesia is that because it is such a powerful sedative, it tends to last quite a while and you may experience a variety of side effects. Most people are very woozy after waking up and they may not be able to think straight or speak in complete sentences. They may continue to drift in and out of consciousness for some time before the anaesthesia starts to wear off. 

The pain-killing effects of anaesthesia will also last a while after you wake up as well. Once the sedative starts to wear off, you will likely need to use another pain-killer to soothe the pain after the dental procedure. Because anaesthesia takes so long to wear off, you will not be able to drive yourself home. 

For that reason, it is important to bring a friend or family member with you. After a day or so, the effects of the sedative should wear off. You may experience some side effects of general anaesthesia such as headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. 

What You Need to Know About Sedation Dentistry

Sedation dentistry is very helpful for those who suffer from dental anxiety and also for preparing a patient for an invasive dental procedure. There are three main types of dental sedation: nitrous oxide, oral or intravenous sedation, and general anaesthesia. Nitrous oxide and intravenous sedation are both quite common and very effective. 

General anaesthesia is not common because it is usually only reserved for oral surgery. To learn more about dental sedation, don’t hesitate to contact us here