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Sedation Dentistry

A significant number of Americans do not visit the dentist for regular checkups and the care they want because they are too fearful or suffer from dental anxiety.  Sedation dentistry offers an excellent way to provide a safe, anxiety-free, dental experience to those who are afraid of dental procedures or have anxiety due to a difficult experience in the past

Sedation dentistry is often mistakenly thought to induce sleep.  We generally use a mild liquid sedative which is taken orally :30 min prior to the procedure. It eases tension and does NOT cause the pt. to go to sleep.  This is not sedation which requires heart rate, blood O2, and pulse monitoring.

Whatever the form of sedative, it is essential the pt. be accompanied by a caregiver (usually a family member or friend who is the driver). 

Here are some advantages associated with sedation dentistry:

  • Anxiety is alleviated.
  • Few side effects.
  • More can be accomplished during each visit.
  • Procedures may seem to take less time.

What kinds of sedatives are available?

The most popular types of dental sedatives we use are  oral conscious sedation, and IV sedation.  Different levels of sedation (mild, moderate and deep) can be utilized depending on individual needs.  Before administering any sedative, the dentist must analyze the full medical history of the patient, taking note of any current medications.  

Here is an overview of some of the most common types of dental sedatives:

IV Sedation

Intravenous sedation is a moderate type of sedation.  Patients who have previously experienced IV sedation often report feeling like they slept through the entire procedure.  Generally, IV sedation is used for shorter treatments and patients with significant anxiety.  It is administered via direct injection into the bloodstream, which means the effects are immediate.  Sometimes patients feel groggy and sleepy when the IV sedatives are withdrawn.  This is why it is important to bring a designated driver for the drive home.  This type of anesthesia requires careful monitoring of pt. vital signs and is administered by an anesthesiologist or a specialist with advanced qualification and training is anesthesia.

Oral Conscious Sedation

Oral conscious sedation is an excellent choice for people who have mild to moderate anxiety and fear needles.  Oral medication is provided prior to treatment in order to induce a state of relaxation.  Oral sedatives generally do not cause sleep but they can relax a very nervous patient who may fall asleep.  This means that most patients cannot remember discomfort, smells or noises associated with the procedure.  Usually, a dose of medication is taken prior to the appointment, and then topped up during the procedure as required.

What types of drugs are used in oral conscious sedation?

Most of the drugs used in sedation dentistry are classified as benzodiazepines.  Benzodiazepines reduce anxiety, muscle spasms, insomnia and seizures.  Each medication has a different half-life, meaning that the effects last for varying amounts of time.  The estimated length of the procedure determines which type of drug is going to be most effective.

Here are two of the most common drugs used in oral conscious sedation:

Ativan® – This sedative is best known for reducing anxiety.  It has amnesic properties and a medium half-life.  Ativan is typically used for treatments which last several hours. 

Versed® – This sedative has the shortest half-life and is therefore less commonly used.  It alleviates anxiety in much the same way as nitrous oxide, has a relatively rapid onset and is used for the vast majority of cases due to it's short half-life and safety history.

If you have questions or concerns about sedation dentistry, please contact our office.