Many of the fears people have related to dentistry are based on misconceptions; for example, root canals — contrary to popular imagination — don’t hurt a bit. But if you’re the type of person who gets nervous even when having basic, painless dental procedures performed by the family dentist, you may want to consider seeking out a local dentist who offers more extensive sedation options.
What Is Sedation Dentistry?
Sedation in dentistry is used both to take away pain sensations and to combat generalized anxiety during dental procedures. Some patients experience this anxiety because they fear sharp objects or because they have had dental trauma in the past. Regardless of the reason, moderate or conscious sedation allows the patient to relax without being totally unconscious (which carries additional risks).
Inhaled Minimal Sedation
Inhaled minimal sedation is used to take the edge off anxiety for simple procedures, but wears off quickly enough that patients can still drive themselves home. Typically, the patient has a mask placed over the nose and inhales a combination of nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) and oxygen.
Oral Sedation Dentistry
Oral sedation dentistry involves the patient taking a pill before the procedure. Common drugs include diazepam, triazolam, zaleplon, lorazepam and hydroxyzine. Most people are more familiar with the brand name of diazepam, Valium. However, the most effective and frequently approved drug for this use is triazolam, or Halcion. It’s also used to treat insomnia, and causes the patient to feel very sleepy without becoming unconscious.
IV sedation is often used for longer and more serious procedures. However, it can be frightening for people who dislike sharp instruments, mitigating the anxiety-reliving effect of the drugs. It is also a more expensive method.
What do you think? Would having one of these treatments ease any anxiety about the dentist? Or is better education about the minimal discomfort associated with most dental procedures enough to calm you down? Share your thoughts in the comments.