For many people the word sedation brings up images of people being medicated to the degree of being deeply unconscious, so as to undergo major surgeries. A full anaesthesia, as most of us know, carries risks. But in the dental world especially, there are many different degrees of sedation, the majority of which actually leave the patient totally conscious and aware of everything that is happening. Dental sedation should not be confused with a local anaesthetic, which will also be administered in most cases, to numb the area where the dentist is working. Dental sedation, sometimes referred to, slightly inaccurately as sleep dentistry, comes in several different levels.
Sedation is used to deal with patient anxiety when undergoing dental treatments and is available in differing levels. At its mildest, it comes in the form of breathing nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, which is professionally termed, “inhaled minimal sedation.” The amount is easily controlled, wears off quickly, but induces a level of relaxation in the patient, enabling the dentist to do his work. Oral sedation normally comes in the form of a drug called Halcion, similar to diazepam, or valium, taken an hour or so before treatment begins. It creates a level of drowsiness in the patient, who may even fall asleep during the procedure, but can be woken very easily. The dentist will alter the dose as required, for minimal or moderate effect, and is the most common form of what is known as sedation dentistry.
The next level of sedation is delivered intravenously, which is very fast acting, allowing for a continuously adjusted level of moderate sedation. For those with a very deep anxiety, or a seriously invasive operation, deep sedation and general anaesthesia induces a level of sedation that will see you partly or totally unconscious. Of all the forms of sedation in dentistry, this is the only one in which it is extremely difficult to wake you up before the medication has worn off, or you have received reverse medication to bring you round.
Benefits of Sedation
Dental associations globally accept that the use of local anaesthetics, sedation and general anaesthesia are an integral part of dentistry practice. It enables the work to be performed with less patient discomfort, and much faster, given the dentist can work more efficiently. Your fear of dentists, and we nearly all have one to some degree, will reduce as you will essentially just doze your way merrily through whatever treatment or multiple treatments you need, in one happy sitting. Whether you are looking for North Shore cosmetic dentistry, or just dealing with a horrible toothache anywhere, there is little denying that dental sedation makes for happier dentists and customers, regardless of the procedure.
As such an integral part of dentistry today, very large numbers of dentists are fully qualified to administer medications for local anaesthetics and mild to moderate sedation, and will discuss with you which is most appropriate. It is vitally important that you disclose any medical issues you may have, along with full disclosure of whatever medications you are taking. Aside from those who suffer anxiety about visiting the dentist, others who should consider the option are those with a low threshold for pain, who suffer from a bad gag reflex, or are about to undergo a significant amount of dental work, over a period of more than an hour.
If you fall into any of these categories, your local dentist will be happy to talk you through what he feels most appropriate for your personal situation.