There's so much dentistry can do these days to make your mouth healthier and your smile more beautiful. Yet many people don't take advantage of this because of a long-standing fear of dental treatment. If you think you fall into this category, rest assured that it's possible to have an experience free from anxiety and pain. This can be accomplished by blocking your sensation of pain with local anesthetics or by giving you medication that can help you relax. Sometimes both are needed to ensure maximum comfort, especially if anxiety has been your experience with pain and relaxation medications in the past.
If you are fearful of dental treatment, quite possibly your guard may go up and your pain threshold down with the anticipation of what’s coming next. If this describes your experience in the dental chair, then you may benefit from sedatives given during your visit to help make anxiety melt away. However, before any particular sedative is recommended, you will be asked to provide a complete health history, including any medications you are currently taking, both prescription and over-the-counter. On treatment day, you may need a companion to help you to and from your appointment as certain medications take time to wear off. It is also important we know if you smoke or drink.
Oral sedation (given by mouth) is a popular option for many people precisely because it does not require the use of needles. Oral sedatives are either swallowed whole in pill form or can be dissolved under the tongue and both methods work in a matter of minutes. A variety of oral sedative and anxiolytic (anxiety-dissolving) medications have been developed through extensive research and testing to make your dental treatment experience as comfortable and relaxing as possible. All have long safety records after decades of use and several even have ‘amnesic’ properties, meaning you will remember little to nothing, even though you are conscious throughout the treatment. Commonly prescribed medications include Valium®, Halcion®, Sonata®, Ativan®, Vistaril®, and Versed®.
Nitrous oxide, a sedative you inhale, has been used in dental offices for nearly 100 years. It is a relatively poor pain reliever but a very good anti-anxiety medication. It is administered through a nasal hood, which resembles a small cup that is placed over your nose. The oxygen mixed with nitrous oxide provides a light-headed or even euphoric feeling, which is quick to wear off so there is no ‘hangover’ effect. All bodily functions remain essentially normal during the use of this very safe sedative.
IV Conscious Sedation
Sedatives delivered directly into the bloodstream intravenously (into the vein) are more potent than when taken orally and the amnesic effects may be more profound. Because IV sedation has an almost immediate effect on the body and its functions — including heart rate, blood pressure and breathing — there is a higher degree of risk associated with it than with other types of sedatives. There is also a higher level of training required for those who administer it. As with all sedation (except nitrous oxide) you must be monitored with specialized equipment throughout your IV sedation treatment. The main advantage is that drugs administered this way work immediately and the level of sedation can be adjusted more quickly and easily. And with most sedatives, you won't remember a thing about your dental procedure after the sedative wears off.