Going to the dentist can be a stressful process for many people. But, stress may only be the beginning of your idea of going to the dentist. Some people have no problems making their dental appointments. Others struggle to pick up the phone. One person’s inconvenience can be another person’s dread.
Many people experience fear or anxiety about going to the dentist. It is difficult for patients with dental anxiety to make their appointments. Unfortunately, this is bad for their oral health. In fact, many will avoid going to the dentist altogether out of fear. Recent polls show that between 9% and 20% of U.S. patients do not go to the dentist because of anxiety or phobia.
A phobia is much more severe than anxiety. People with a phobia feel a sense of terror or panic when a certain object or event is involved. In this case, people with dental phobia are scared of the dentist. While this may be an irrational fear, it is not something that a patient can help. Luckily, there are safe and effective options available.
If going to the dentist makes you uneasy, you should consider sedation dentistry.
What Is Sedation Dentistry?
Sedation dentistry is the use of sedation to benefit a patient’s experience. Dentists can administer certain types of sedation in-office or give patients prescriptions at home.
There are varying levels of sedation. Under minimal sedation, patients are awake and alert. Although, they are fully relaxed. Moderate sedation or “conscious sedation” allows patients to respond while awake. However, they are not likely to remember any part of their procedure. With deep sedation, a patient is nearly asleep or at the edge of unconsciousness. However, a dentist or someone should be able to wake them. Finally, general anesthesia will put a patient to sleep, meaning complete unconsciousness.
Types of Sedation
For dental anxiety, a patient is likely to use nitrous oxide or oral sedation.
Nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas,” is a common form of sedation. Dentists will give patients the gaseous sedative through a mask over their nose. The gas will allow a patient to relax fully, but they will be alert. A dentist can control the amount of gas given. Unlike other forms of sedation, a patient will be able to drive themselves home after their procedure.
With oral sedation, a patient will take a pill about an hour before their procedure. This will ensure that they are fully relaxed before their dentist begins. If a patient is under oral sedation, they will need someone to drive them to and from their procedure. It is unsafe to drive under this type of sedation. Patients will be drowsy but awake.
A dentist will adminster IV sedation through the veins. This method works quickly. Also, it allows a dentist to adjust the amount of sedation throughout the procedure. After the procedure, a dentist will reverse the sedation. Someone will need to drive the patient home.