Sedation Dentistry

A large number of people do not visit the dentist for regular checkups because they fear the dentist or suffer from dental anxiety. Sedation dentistry offers an excellent way to provide a safe, anxiety-free dental experience to those who are afraid of the dentist.

Sedation dentistry is often mistakenly thought to induce sleep.  In fact, most sedatives allow the patient to stay awake during the procedure. Sleepiness is a side effect of some medications, but Nitrous Oxide and minimal oral conscious sedation medications only work to calm anxiety throughout the dental visit.

Minimal sedation dentistry is popular because sedatives can be taken by mouth, meaning no IV needles, no anxiety, and no pain.  Some sedatives work so effectively, that even the smells and details of the procedure cannot be recalled afterwards.  Safety and compliance are two important aspects of treatments, so sedation dentistry offers both the individual and the dentist the best alternative.

Whatever the form of sedative, it is essential to be accompanied by a caregiver/driver.  Sometimes, sedatives are provided the night before the dental visit, which means that driving to and from the appointment is not allowed.

Here are some advantages associated with minimal sedation dentistry:

  • Anxiety and fear is alleviated
  • Few side effects
  • Much more can be accomplished during each dental visit
  • No IV needles
  • No pain
  • Perfectly safe
  • Procedures seem to take less time

What kinds of sedatives are available in this office?

The most popular types of dental sedatives are Nitrous Oxide and medications like Ativan®and Halcion®.  Different levels of sedation can be utilized depending on individual needs.  Before administering any sedative, the dentist must analyze the full medical history of the patient, taking note of any current medications. Nitrous Oxide and Ativan® are used in combination by Dr. Sannar to provide the most effective result and the reason Dr. Sannar does not use IV sedation.

Here is an overview of some of the most common types of dental sedatives:

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous Oxide or “laughing gas”, is used as a mild sedative.  It is delivered through a nose hood and is administered throughout the entire procedure.  Nitrous Oxide elevates the general mood and can evoke a general sense of well-being.  Most importantly, it relieves anxiety and reduces pain during the procedure.  In addition, some tingling and numbness may be felt. There are few side effects associated with Nitrous Oxide and it has been safely used in dentistry for many years.

Minimal Oral Conscious Sedation

Oral conscious sedation is an excellent choice for people who fear needles.  Oral medication is provided prior to treatment in order to induce a minimal state of sedation.  Though oral sedatives do not cause sleep, they usually dull the senses.  This means that most patients cannot remember the pain, smells, or noises associated with the procedure.  Usually, two doses of medication are taken, one the night before and another less than an hour prior to the appointment.

What types of drugs are used in oral conscious sedation?

Most of the drugs used in sedation dentistry are classified as benzodiazepines.  Benzodiazepines reduce anxiety, muscle spasms, insomnia, and seizures.  Each medication has a different half-life, meaning that the effects last for varying amounts of time.  The estimated length of the procedure determines which type of drug is going to be most effective.

Here are some of the most common drugs used in oral conscious sedation:

Halcion® – Usually used to treat insomnia, Halcion is an effective sedative with amnesic properties.  A short half-life makes this sedative useful for procedures lasting less than two hours.

Ativan® – This sedative is best known for reducing anxiety.  It has amnesic properties and a medium half-life.  Ativan is typically used for procedures in excess of two hours and will leave the patient drowsy for the remainder of the day.

Valium® – This sedative has amnesic properties and a long half-life. It is usually used for time-consuming, complex procedures.

Versed® – This sedative has the shortest half-life and is therefore less commonly used.  It alleviates anxiety in much the same way as nitrous oxide and is used for visits that will take less than 30 minutes.

If you have questions or concerns about sedation dentistry, please contact our office.