As dental procedures have become less invasive over the past few decades, it’s no longer necessary to be put to “sleep” for a procedure that might have meant a noon-day nap not so long ago. What should you know about sedation dentistry? What are the benefits, and why is it used?
Sedation dentistry is generally used to create an anxiety-free experience for the patient. As much as 30 percent of the population suffers from “dental phobia” or a fear of going to the dentist, according to the Dental Organization for Conscious Sedation (DOCS). This phobia can mean that patients do not receive routine dental care, which can compromise their oral, and overall, health.
Using sedation, a dentist is able to relax and calm a patient before any type of dental procedure. Levels of relaxation vary, from minimal to moderate to deep sedation. Techniques to achieve sedation include traditional methods of inhalation, including “laughing gas” (or nitrous oxide), or intravenous (or IV) sedation – delivered through injection into the blood vessels of the arm or hand. The most common approach to calm patient fears is through “no needle” oral sedation.
Oral sedation lets the patient maintain a level of consciousness, which allows them to cooperate and follow commands, but prevents them from remembering much of what happened. Sedation shortens one’s impression of the amount of time the procedure actually takes – many patients think that procedures undertaken while sedated last “only a few minutes.” This can act as a time-saving benefit because more work is able to be completed in a single appointment, and fewer appointments are needed. For this reason, sometimes sedation may be covered by insurance if a patient is able to complete a complicated procedure in a single appointment, but usually it is not covered.
Dentists must receive thorough additional training or even get accredited to practice sedation dentistry, and it is widely believed that any risks of sedation are far outweighed by the risks of you not getting the care you need. So if your dentist gives you the chills, be sure to ask them about oral sedation during your next appointment.