Are you one of the 10 percent of people in this country who let fear of going to the dentist keep you out of the chair? Dental phobia is a real thing – one that exists for real reasons. Dental professionals understand why patients don’t like to make appointments, but, they didn’t always have a clear strategy in place to ease that tension.
Modern dentists know that relaxation must be a part of professional dental care. It’s a concept that starts at the office door and continues once that patient is in the chair. The key to managing fears is offering advanced care features like sedation. What is dental sedation and when do dentists recommend it?
A Little About Sedation Dentistry
Specialists in sedation dentistry use medication to relax a patient during a dental treatment. There are different levels of sedation used in this practice because not all people experience the same type of anxiety. For example:
- Minimal sedation allows you to stay awake but to stay calm during the procedure. Minimal sedation usually means nitrous oxide or laughing gas. You inhale the gas through a mask and it eases your tension.
- Moderate sedation means you are a little more out of it but still awake. With this level of therapy, patients often feel goofy and slur their words, but, after the sedation wears off, they remember little about the treatment. Moderate sedation may include either an oral drug or IV infusion. Some patients take a pill similar to valium to make them a little drowsy. If we feel a larger dose is indicated, an IV is the best delivery system.
- Deep sedation takes you on the edge of consciousness and general anesthesia means you are completely out during the procedure. Once you wake up, you will remember nothing. Deep sedation and general anesthesia come in a variety of formats but, usually involve an IV.
The delivery system and the level of sedation are targeted for each patient. The doctor takes various factors into consideration such as your overall health, the level of your anxiety and any known reactions to drugs to create a proactive formula to manage your fears.
When is Dental Sedation Used?
Technically, most any procedure can include sedation options if necessary, but dentists tend to reserve it for the more difficult treatments such as:
- Minor oral surgery including wisdom teeth removal
- Reconstructive surgery
- Cosmetic surgery including dental implants
You might notice all of these procedures have one word in common – surgery. Dental sedation is most commonly used for surgical treatments that require the patient to remain still and calm. Sedation is not limited to this kind of use, though. Our staff focuses on the needs of the patient when making the decision whether to use sedation and at what level including:
- The length of the appointment – Oral medication is a good fit for short procedures while an IV drip works better for longer appointments.
- Levels of anxiety – Like most phobias, patients have different trigger levels. A person who gets anxious and fidgety at just the thought of going to the dentist is a candidate for sedation. Some patients can make it into the office but get upset by what they see, hear and smell once in the chair. A mild sedation can help get that person through the procedure.
- Other fears – Maybe the problem isn’t going to the dentist, but the idea of needles or injections that cause the anxiety. In this case, at least mild sedation makes sense.
- Sensitivity – This would include sensitive gums, a low threshold for pain or even a sensitive gag reflex. Some people don’t respond well to the idea of the dentist or hygienist putting their fingers in their mouths, too. Sedation can ease that fear.
There are few hard and fast rules for dental sedation. You, as a patient, understand how you feel better than anyone. Let us help you find a way to manage your dental phobia to get the best care available. There is no reason you can’t have healthy teeth despite your fear. Give us a call at 610-692-4440 for more information on dental phobia and our sedation services.