Can Sedation Dentistry Ease Your Fears?
It is still a week away from Maria’s next dental appointment, but the very idea of laying in that exam chair while someone pokes and prods in her mouth fills her with dread. Her last dental visit was so terrifying that she swore to never go back. And for over a year, she didn’t. But now, her gum pain is so bad, she knows she can no longer ignore it. If it weren’t for her friend recommending a new dentist who specializes in sedation dentistry to her, she likely wouldn’t have agreed to this appointment.
What is Dental Anxiety?
Maria suffers from a very common condition known as dental anxiety. It’s estimated that up to 15% of Americans avoid the dentist because of anxiety and fear about the visit. In fact, a recent survey found that 36% of people who did not visit the dentist regularly reported fear as their primary reason from abstaining.
The degree to which a person experiences dental anxiety can vary, but many people report a sense of uneasiness, or unfounded and exaggerated worries about the appointment. Some people suffer from an extreme form of dental anxiety, dental phobia, which leaves them terrified and panic-stricken at the idea of the exam chair. The more extreme the emotional response, the less likely a person is to visit the dentist, even when their dental problems become unbearable.
For some, this fear and avoidance of the dentist can lead to an emotional downward spiral. By avoiding the dentist, their discolored or damaged teeth only deteriorate further, making the patient self-conscious and insecure. As a result, they may smile less, or try to keep their teeth covered when they speak. Their embarrassment about their teeth can cause their personal and professional lives to suffer, and self-esteem can deteriorate.
Varying Levels of Dental Anxiety Management
Sedation dentistry is a branch of dental science that specifically deals with the management of dental anxiety. Dentists use medication to help patients relax during dental procedures. Depending on the patient’s dental anxiety, there are varying levels of sedation that might be used:
- Minimal Sedation – where the patient is awake but relaxed.
- Moderate Sedation – the patient will feel a little “out of it”, and may slur their speech or not remember parts of the procedure. The patient is asleep, but can be easily woken up.
- Deep Sedation – the patient is on the edge of consciousness, but can be woken up.
- General anesthesia – the patient is completely unconscious. This last option is primarily used to treat people with extreme dental phobia in a hospital setting.
What Types of Sedation are Used?
In general, there are four types of sedation dentistry that can be administered to a patient.
Inhaled Minimal Sedation – the most common type of sedation involves inhaling nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, as it is commonly known. A mask is placed on the nose and allows the patient to breathe a combination of oxygen and nitrous oxide, which puts the patient in a relaxed state. The gas is harmless and wears off quickly after the mask is removed. This is the only form of sedation where the patient can drive themselves home afterward.
Oral Sedation – Oral sedation is delivered in pill form. The most common pill used is Halcion, a close relative of Valium. The pill is taken an hour before the procedure, and will make the patient drowsy. While it is possible the patient may fall asleep, they can usually be awakened easily. The dose may be adjusted for greater sedation, if needed.
IV Sedation – A sedative drug is delivered to the bloodstream directly and goes to work quickly. This method offers the dentist greater control over the level of sedation.
Deep Sedation with General Anesthesia – The patient will receive medication that make them unconscious during the procedure. Under general anesthesia, you cannot be awakened easily until the medication has completely worn off or reversed by another medication.
Back to Maria’s Story
Although Maria had some trouble sleeping in the days leading up to her appointment, the visit truly could not have gone better. Her dentist took great care to explain all of her options to her, and together they found a treatment plan that allowed her to receive quality care, without the anxiety.
Depending on your level of dental anxiety, a good sedation dentist can help manage your fear so that you can get the dental care you need and deserve. Dr. Joseph Bedich has decades of experience in sedation dentistry, and a track record of satisfied patients. If you suffer from dental anxiety, and are curious how sedation dentistry might benefit you, call us at (330) 637-7971 now for more info or visit our website at www.adazzlingsmile.com.