Sometimes, the thought of having your teeth cleaned can make your entire body tense with fear. A lot of people are so phobic about going to the dentist that they prefer not to have any treatment.

For people who avoid dentists due to fear, sedation dentistry may take away some of their anxiety. Sedation can be used for everything from invasive procedures to a simple tooth cleaning. How it’s used depends on the severity of the fear.

What are the Types of Sedation Dentistry?

With sedation, the dentist administers a drug before or during the dental procedure. Only one type — general anesthesia — renders the patient completely unconscious. The other forms will relax you, but won’t knock you out completely.

The most common types of sedation dentistry include the following:

  • Nitrous oxide:Nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas, is used to relax patients during dental procedures. You’ll be conscious while taking laughing gas, but because it’s a gas, it wears off very quickly once you stop breathing it in. Patients who only receive laughing gas as a sedative are often allowed to drive themselves home after a procedure.

    When you receive laughing gas, the dentist gives you a nose apparatus through which you breathe the gas. The effects are very mild, and you’ll start to feel the gas very quickly, sometimes as soon as 30 seconds after you start breathing it in. Some patients relax enough with nitrous oxide and do not require another form of sedation. Other patients need laughing gas on top of oral sedation.

  • Oral sedatives: Oral sedatives, such as diazepam, also help relax patients during dental procedures. You typically take them an hour or so before your appointment. You’re fully awake but less anxious, and you might feel a little sleepy until it wears off.

  • Intravenous sedatives: Intravenous, or IV, sedatives can put you in varying stages of consciousness. This is also known as general anesthesia and, as mentioned above, will put you into a deep sleep until it wears off. Other IV drugs, however, can put you into a “twilight sleep.” You’re less aware of your surroundings, you might feel sleepy, and you might not remember much of the procedure once it’s over.

How Does Sedation Dentistry Work?

The process depends on the type of sedation your dentist chooses. If you’re taking an oral sedative, for instance, your dentist will write you a prescription for the drug and give you instructions on how to take it. As long as you follow those instructions, you’ll benefit from reduced anxiety and increased relaxation. Once the medication begins to work, you should start to feel drowsy and content.

You don’t have to prepare at all for nitrous oxide. Your dentist will supply it before, during, and right after the procedure. However, if you choose IV sedation, you might have to prepare in advance.

For instance, your dentist might ask you to fast — not eat or drink anything — for several hours before the dental work. You might also need to avoid taking certain medications the day before you visit the dentist because they can interfere with the sedation medication.

Do I Need Sedation Dentistry?

Patients who consider sedation dentistry often have different reasons for their interest, such as the following:

  • Phobia related to dental procedures
  • Bad experience with dental work in the past
  • Particularly sensitive oral nerves
  • Smallmouth that becomes sore during dental work
  • Resistance to local anesthetic
  • General anxiety disorder

If you recognize yourself in any of those problem areas, consider asking your dentist about sedation dentistry. Dental sedation can help patients get through many types of dental work, such as root canals, tooth extractions, dental implantation, and more.

 Don’t put off your next visit because of anxiety; ask your Tri-City dentist, Dr. Antonio Lopez in Kennewick, and schedule your next procedure with dental sedation.

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