ARC Dental Health

Preventative care is an essential part of your overall wellness. You can do to the doctor for physicals and annual bloodwork, but if you're not getting regular dental checkups, you're missing out on a vital part of healthcare.

Without quality dental care monitoring their oral health, many patients don't make it into the dentist's chair until there's already a problem.

By that time, what could have been an easy fix becomes a bit more complicated and frequently needs sedation dentistry to repair.

Defining the Terms in Sedation Dentistry

Sedation is a term used in the medical field to refer to any method of treatment that helps patients relax. The sedation methods in each field are usually similar.

They can include general anesthesia, a minimal sedation technique that keeps the patient awake and alert, or deep sedation, rendering the patient totally unconscious.

Why Sedation is Necessary

If your dentist recommends sedation as part of the dental treatment you're going to have, there's a reason for it. Sedation isn't something used with every procedure. It's a safe and effective method to help you get through something that might otherwise include discomfort or pain.

Without Sedatives, You Could Injure Yourself

Without sedation, your natural instincts are to jerk and pull away, which makes it difficult for the dentist and possibly causes damage to yourself.

The Basics of Sedation

There are many types of sedation dentistry options, and your dentist will discuss each one with you. The level of sedation necessary depends on multiple factors, such as your medical history and the dental procedures you are about to undergo.

Dentists must go through extra training to provide sedation, and it's only used when a topical anesthetic isn't strong enough.

Unconscious Versus Conscious Sedation

Much of the fear of sedation is based on stories and myths. Let's break down the different reasons for dental sedation and when each kind would be beneficial.

Local Anesthesia

The first level of sedation that dentists consider is a local anesthetic. This is typically used when patients experience dental problems due to things like cavities, crown placement or adjustment, and root planing and scaling.

Local anesthesia keeps you conscious and alert. It numbs the area that's in need of work. The numbness usually lasts around half an hour to an hour.

Topical or Injectable Applications

This is applied as a topical gel rubbed on your gums or injected into the gum area. When you feel numb, it's time to start the dental procedures on the agenda.

General Anesthesia

When stronger pain control is necessary, or a patient has dental anxiety about the procedure, general anesthesia can help. Under this method of sedation dentistry, the whole body is completely relaxed and the patient is unconscious.

Dentists often recommend this type of sedation for long procedures and dental work that needs careful handling. Because the patient is completely unconscious for the entire procedure, it's easier for complex dental treatments to be performed.

Occasionally, your dentist may suggest this kind of sedation for other reasons, too. For instance, if your anxiety is so severe that you can't sit still for a cavity sealant, or you have a special health issue that you can't have other sedation methods with, general anesthetics help.

Types of General Anesthesia

Most kinds of general anesthesia are given by experienced dentists through IV sedation or a face mask. The anesthetic is steadily controlled throughout the entire procedure. You'll relax in the dental chair and breathe through a special tube when you fall asleep.

General anesthesia is often suggested for procedures such as wisdom teeth removal or tooth extractions.

Is a General Anesthetic Right For You?

However, this type of sedation isn't for anyone with neurological problems, acid reflux, or organ diseases. If you previously had a reaction to an anesthetic, talk to your dentist so they can adjust your sedation accordingly.

Nitrous Oxide Sedation

Unlike IV moderate sedation, nitrous oxide is an inhaled minimal sedation technique. Also called laughing gas, if your anxiety is spiking or you don't want to deal with an IV, this dental sedation is a quick solution.

Through a mask, you inhale oxygen mixed with nitrous oxide. The balance of the gases is controlled throughout the procedure to ensure you stay unconscious during the procedure. If you have a low pain threshold, and the medication wears off too soon, the dentist is aware of the signs and can increase the laughing gas.

Most patients don't realize they've even had the procedure until it's over. They may feel sleepy, or immediately lose consciousness after breathing the laughing gas. As soon as you stop inhaling it, the gas loses its effectiveness and you're alert again.

Oral Sedation

When the procedure doesn't call for you to be unconscious, or you have anxiety about it, oral sedatives are an option. With these drugs, you'll have moderate sedation for hours-long enough for the dentist to complete the full treatment.

Most dentists use Halcion, a drug that works similarly to Valium. You'll take your oral medication an hour before your procedure. Within that time, you'll begin to feel completely relaxed and groggy. However, you'll be able to respond to instructions and questions.

Oral sedative medication offers moderate levels of relaxation and pain relief. This makes this oral conscious sedation a good choice for many dental services, including root canals. Unlike laughing gas, though, it doesn't wear off quickly. You may need someone to drive you home after the dental procedure.

IV Sedation

Of all the types of sedation, IV application is the only form that puts you into deep sedation that all but extremely aggressive actions can't break. The same drugs are in the IV drip as with oral sedation. But if you want to be unconscious to avoid dental anxiety, or you have a bad gag reflex, moderate sedation isn't enough.

Once you fall asleep, the dentist will keep track of your vital signs and adjust your medication as necessary.

Make an Appointment to Talk About Your Options

Don't let the concern of sedation dentistry keep you from getting your dental health problems fixed. Make an appointment to talk to your dentist about the types of sedation options you have.

Remember, whether you need moderate oral sedation, deep sedation, or something else depends on a variety of factors. You could be putting "worst-case scenario" options into your head when they don't need to be there.

Feel free to show up at your appointment with a list of questions and concerns. Other patients have!

Our Dentistry Procedures Are Safe and Approved

Rest assured, nitrous oxide, oral sedation dentistry, and any medication you're given have been approved by the American Dental Association and the FDA. The type that you'll receive will be tailored to your health, your procedure, and any insurance concerns.

We want to help you handle your dental needs safely and with as minimal discomfort as possible.

Our goal is to help you take care of your dental needs safely and as comfortably as possible. For sedation dentistry, preventative care, and everything in between, make your appointment today!

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