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Sedation Dentistry Basics

Available Methods and Their Effects

Sedation dentistry’s roots can be traced all the way back to the days of using whiskey to help take the edge off of dental pain. Thankfully, modern medicine has made leaps and bounds since then. Advances in science, dentistry, and pharmacology have generated a wide range of options for adding comfort to the dental experience.

Nitrous Oxide, anxiety-free sedation, sleep dentistry, IV sedation, and oral sedation dentistry, are all terms used to describe sedation delivery methods and the effects of these modalities. The method that is right for each patient depends on a host of factors such as fear level, extent of treatment, and medical history.

Nitrous Oxide, or inhalation sedation, is perhaps the most common form of sedation in dentistry. It is continuously delivered during the treatment through a nasal hood or nasal mask system at a low concentration, creating relaxation while the patient is still completely aware of what is happening. It has the added benefit of providing slight numbing to the gum tissues and is often used during anesthetic injections.

IV sedation uses intravenous access to deliver medication directly into the bloodstream. This creates a profound and immediate result and can induce a state of conscious-like sleep. It requires a high level of training, skill, and monitoring and is often used when a patient’s fear level is extremely high.

Oral conscious sedation, (sedation through the use of pills taken orally) was first regularly used in dentistry in the late 1990s. The founders of DOCS Education, (formerly the Dental Organization for Conscious Sedation) expanded on existing scientific and medical techniques to provide patients with a safe and effective alternative to IV sedation. It allows patients to get their much needed care and pain free dentistry, without the use of an additional needle.

Oral sedation dentistry drugs, such as diazepam, triazolam, and zaleplon are taken by mouth beginning the morning of or the night before treatment to induce minimal to moderate sedation. Medications may also be administered immediately before the appointment and throughout longer treatments to ensure that a patient’s comfort level is maintained. Oral sedation, often leaves a patient with little-to-no memory of their dental procedure by the next day, including the sights, sounds, and smells. Patients often describe oral sedation as the experience of being asleep but are able to move, speak, and respond to verbal requests.

For most forms of sedation, a companion is required to drive a patient to and from their dental treatment. The medications typically wear off within 24 hours with little to no chance of side effects. Terminology for the science of sedation is disputed. The term “sleep dentistry” is often considered to be inaccurate. For clarity, many state boards require that the term only be applied to the use of IV sedation. The type and level of sedation appropriate for each patient varies and should be determined by a qualified sedation dentist,. All medical conditions as well as medications, vitamins, and supplements should be discussed to ensure the safest and most comfortable dental experience possible. For more information, set up a consultation with an anxiety-free or sedation dentist in your area - find a dentist today!