Dental Guide

Different Types of Sedation at the Dentist’s Office

Very few people actually look forward to the dentist, and it’s pretty clear why this is the case. Even if you take good care of your teeth it’s an uncomfortable and nerve-wracking experience. You’re laid back in a chair staring up into a bright light, while a relative stranger pries your mouth open and pokes around. There are terrifying machines, the grating sound of the drill filling your head, and days of discomfort following a particularly rigorous cleaning. If you don’t take great care of your teeth you’ll be in for cavities that need to be filled, caps to be replaced and the dreaded root canal. Luckily, modern medicine offers several tools to help you relax and get through the process with as little pain as possible. It comes down to the application of various drugs, each of which work to relax you or even put you out cold. Here are the different types of sedation at the dental office.

First on the list is the oral sedative. This is what you will get if you need to have any type of invasive work done. The most common type is called diazepham, and it’s usually given to you the day before your visit or a hour prior. The goal is to lessen anxiety, as many people stress themselves out before they even sit in the chair. The oral sedative will relax you, but it won’t do anything about the pain felt from the dentist’s work. If you’ve got a serious dental phobia, the dentist may elect to give you an intravenous sedative instead. This will be administered just prior to the dental work, and will offer even more anxiety relief.

When it comes to avoiding the pain of the dental work, the first professional option is nitrous oxide. This is given in gas form, once you’re prepped for the work. It’s often used when significant dental surgery is required, as its effect is fairly significant. It will make you incredibly relaxed, and some people get giddy or euphoric. You’ll often receive some sort of local anesthetic in conjunction with the nitrous oxide. Put together, you’ll experience no anxiety or pain. There may still be a bit of discomfort, but otherwise you’ll have no idea what’s going on.

The most extensive type of sedation used at the dentist’s office is a general anesthetic. This is often a more significant dose of nitrous oxide, but the dentist may use a drug administered intravenously as well. With a general anesthetic you will be rendered unconscious, and therefore unaware of any amount of the work. There is always a bit of concern when putting a patient under, and a professional anesthesiologist must be there to monitor your vital signs. But with a general anesthetic you will not require a local.

While some or all of the above may be employed on your behalf, they each add up to one of four different types of dental sedation. The lightest level is known as anxiolysis. This is when you’ll simply relax, but still be fully aware of what’s going on. The next level up is conscious sedation. This usually requires administration of an intravenous sedative or nitrous oxide. The goal is to keep you aware and responsive, so you can report pressure and pain issues to the dentist. But you’ll certainly be relaxed. Then comes deep sedation, where you are almost unaware of what’s going on. You’ll need prodding to consistently respond to your dentist’s query, and you’ll need a rebreather on hand just in case you run into trouble. Finally, there’s unconsciousness through general anesthesia. The sedation dentist will go this route only as a last resort, as you will need help breathing and could face complications. The surgery would have to be significant for unconsciousness to be an option.

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