Dental Sedation Levels: Painless Options to Oral Health
If “wake me when it’s over” is your first reaction to scheduled dental procedures, you are not alone. Getting beyond the fear and trepidation of dental appointments is much easier today than it has ever been before. Even though the use of general anesthesia is a viable option for some patients who require extensive work, we at Briglia Dental Group want to take away your anxiety with as little medication as possible.
Dental Phobia & Avoiding the Dentist
The people who keep track of these things tell us that most people have no problem going to the dentist, even though it may not be their favorite thing to do. . However, statistics also confirm that about 30 percent of us don’t schedule regular dental appointments because of fear. A much smaller percentage have a true phobia — the result of an unpleasant childhood experience, an overactive gag reflex, or a totally unrelated apprehension. Some people acknowledge that their fears are unreasonable, but still become physically ill at the prospect of scheduling even preventive checkups. Cleaning appointments are emotionally painful for some, while others delay dental work until their pain is unbearable, or until the need for dental work is obvious in other ways.
Sedation dentistry is a catchall term that covers a wide spectrum of options available to allay patient fears, calm anxiety and eliminate pain. Modern choices are much more effective than previous eras where “grab the chair and bear it” was the norm for very fearful patients. Having had visits like that could be the root of many adult patients fearing going to the dentist without really knowing why. My childhood dentist did not use any Novocain when he worked on my teeth so I know what my fearful patients are going through.
At Briglia Dental Group, we believe that oral health is a vitally important part of overall well-being and systemic health as well. We also believe that there is no reason for anyone to fear the dentist. We practice what we preach! We have provided sedation dentistry to our patients for more than 12 years, and we are certified in both Oral and IV Sedation procedures.
Sedation Dentistry Levels
Sedation dentistry has sometimes been described as “sleep dentistry,” but that is actually misleading. Dental professionals usually speak in terms of four levels of sedation:
1. Minimal Sedation/ Anxiolysis
This is a drug-induced state during which patients respond normally to verbal commands. Although the patient is very relaxed, the airway, breathing and regular body functions are unaffected. Examples of this type of sedation would be a sedative pill before the appointment or the use of nitrous oxide “laughing gas” during the dental visit.
2. Moderate Sedation/ Analgesia (“Conscious Sedation”)
This is a drug-induced moderate form of sedation causing a depression of consciousness. During the appointment the patient can respond to verbal commands but usually does not recall details of dental visit. Both Oral and IV Sedation fall into this category in the dental office. This is termed conscious sedation because the patient does not lose any protective reflexes and can breathe on their own. This is the level of Oral and IV Sedation that we provide in our dental practice.
3. Deep Sedation / Analgesia
This is a drug-induced state where patients have a deeper depression of consciousness and cannot be easily aroused. The airway and breathing independently may be impaired. Patients may need help keeping an airway open and help with breathing. This type of sedation is usually not done in a general dental office, but is common in an oral surgery office. The deepest level of anesthesia is General Anesthesia and is provided in Oral Surgery offices and hospitals.
4. General Anesthesia
This is a drug-induced loss of consciousness where the patient cannot be aroused, even by painful stimulation. The patient’s ability to breathe on their own is often impaired and assistance with keeping an airway open is needed. Due to the deep loss of consciousness and depression of neuromuscular functions with General Anesthesia, positive pressure ventilation is needed. General Anesthesia is most commonly used in hospital settings for surgical procedure.
How to Choose the Best Option
For simple fillings and basic dentistry, a strong topical numbing gel and pain-free numbed may be all that is needed. Nitrous Oxide” laughing gas” often helps nervous patients relax and creates a euphoric, happy state. In other cases, an oral sedative medication like Valium taken prior to the visit can help reduce apprehension and fear.
For true dental phobia, apprehension and fear we are certified to offer both Oral and IV sedation. We stay in the Level 1 and Level 2 states of sedation as described above. Many patients seek sedation care for many other reasons including a bad gag reflex, personal space issues or traumatic childhood memories to name a few.
In order to determine the best option, our dental team will explain the details of any planned treatment, including the time frame and investment for the planned work. Then we will thoroughly discuss the painless dental options that are available. If IV sedation is the optimal choice for extensive work, we are certified to administer this anesthesia in our office, and we are qualified to monitor its use. We consult with a patient’s primary care physician to assure that there are no medical conditions that would preclude its use.
If a patient has not been to the dentist in many years and has extensive dental needs, the care can be phased out over time to make it more affordable. There are interest-free and long term payment plans available as well.
As a full-service dental practice in West Chester, we want to be your “family dentist.” No matter what your previous dental experiences have been, and whether you are a child, teenager, adult or senior citizen, we would like to help you overcome any new or old fears you may have about seeing a dentist. Dental care is extremely important for overall systemic health. Our practice offers a no charge consult for sedation care and we are here when you need us. Feel free to call us at (610) 692-4440 for more information on our sedation dentistry practice!