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Dreading that dental visit even if you can’t take the pain anymore? Can’t smile because you have been hiding the visible yellow plaque? Does the sound of the dental drill make you cringe…so much so, that you keep clenching your teeth and can’t seem to open your mouth? Does the sound, smell and even thought of anything about the dental visit stop you in your tracks and make you feel uneasy? Whatever your reason is for dental visit anxiety, you are not alone. There are a lot of people out there, just like you.

About 75 percent of adults in the United States have experienced dental visit anxiety and 5-10 percent of that number have Dentophobia, an intense fear of visiting the dentist. While dentophobia is already an established phobia, interventions like behavioral techniques and medication can be used to treat those who suffer from this kind of fear.

The reasons for dental visit anxiety are varied. Reasons may include personal experience or past dental trauma, being embarrassed by the current state of your dental health and dental hygiene or indirect fear brought about by others when you listening to stories of their own experiences. Whatever your reason for dental anxiety, Mill Dam Dental Care can address your dental concerns.

What is sedation dentistry?

Sedation dentistry uses medication to help people with anxiety relax while undergoing dental procedures. You have the option of staying awake or sleeping through the entire procedure. It is sometimes referred to as “sleep dentistry”. This is also used for people who have a low pain tolerance.

History of Sedation Dentistry

Dentistry has contributed significantly to pain management and sedation practices for the entire field of medicine, across all practices.

The nitrous oxide gas was discovered by the English naturalist Joseph Priestly in 1772. He is also credited with the discovery of oxygen gas just one year prior. He also discovered oxygen gas a year earlier. In 1844, Dr. Horace Wells, a dentist from England, observed Gardner Quincy Colton demonstrate the exhilarating effects of nitrous oxide gas. He first used this gas to sedate a patient for tooth extraction as he publicly demonstrated the procedure to the staff of Massachusetts General Hospital. The act was deemed a failure when the patient cried during the entire procedure even though the patient claimed that he did not experience pain and DID experience numbness during the extraction.

More than 10 years later, Dr. William Morton performed the same procedure in the same hospital using ether and it was a success.

Dr. Wells and Dr. Morton were hailed as the Fathers of Anesthesia for introducing the use of nitrous oxide and the successful use of ether, respectively. Twenty years after Dr. Well’s ill-fated demonstration of the use of nitrous oxide, Dr. Morton popularized its use in 1863.

In 1868, Dr. Edmund Andrews, a surgeon from Chicago, combined oxygen gas with nitrous oxide gas. During his experimentation, he discovered the optimum ratio percentage of the two gases is 80% nitrous oxide to 20% oxygen. In 1945, Dr. Niels Bjorn Jorgensen introduced the technique of using multiple drugs for sedation by titration. He was then recognized as the Father of Intravenous Sedation in dentistry. At this time, the Jorgensen technique was coined– a procedure used by dentists today.

What are the benefits of sedation dentistry?

The sedation technique is beneficial to both the patient and the dentist because it leads to: increased cooperation, increased comfort, a more relaxed procedure, facilitated movement by the dentist throughout the procedure, little to no memory of dental treatment and even lesser dental visits. 

What are the types of sedation used?

  1. Inhaled sedation. This involves the use of nitrous oxide, also known as “laughing gas”. This involves minimal sedation and wears off faster than all the other sedation methods available. Nitrous oxide gas is mixed with oxygen gas and is then breathed through a mask by the patient. The dentist has control of the amount of gas delivered into the system. Patients remain awake throughout the entire procedure, and are usually able to drive shortly after.
  2. Oral sedation. This procedure involves the use of an oral medication and may result in mild to moderate sedation. The dose is dependent on the depth of sedation necessary to achieve a numbed state. Higher doses are given if moderate sedation is necessary for the procedure. The dose may be provided in pill form, and is administered an hour prior to the procedure. This allows the drug time for absorption so that you are comfortable by the time the procedure begins. Depending on the dose given, the patient may remain conscious during the procedure though will likely experience grogginess.
  3. IV sedation. This type of sedation is almost the same as the oral sedation but the medication is administered intravenously. This method reduces the time it takes for the patient to experience sedation. The amount of IV sedation in the patient’s system is monitored by the dentist or a trained technician. The patient’s vital signs are also monitored. IV sedation is usually used when moderate sedation is needed, with the preference for a faster sedative effect.
  4. Deep sedation and general anesthesia. This may be necessary for patients who experience the following:
  • Extreme anxiety due to fear
  • Extremely low pain tolerance
  • Allergies to local anesthesia
  • Require invasive or complex procedure
  • Unable to remain still during the procedure
  • Have difficulty keeping the mouth open for a long time
  • Have special healthcare needs

Regardless of the type of sedation received, a local, mouth-numbing anesthetic is administered so that the patient feels little to no discomfort as the procedure is taking place. The dental professionals at your friendly neighborhood Virginia Beach dentist will help you choose the most appropriate method of sedation for your specific needs.

sedation x ray

Is sedation dentistry safe?

Sedation dentistry is generally safe for a majority of patients. Some experience rare side effects while others experience none at all. However, every medication has at least one or more side effects; remember: they are foreign substances that body enter the body.

How to avoid the side effects

Side effects are extremely rare; however, patients should be prepared to deal with the possibility that they may happen. Adverse effects can be prevented when patients take the following initiatives:

  • They share their complete medical history with their dentist. This allows the dentist and his or her team of health care professionals to determine the best course of sedation and treatment based on the patient’s specific needs. This information includes: the patient’s family’s medical background, knowledge of any chronic disease(s) in the family and the medications currently being taken by the patient. Such medications include vitamins and health supplements, as these may interfere with sedatives the dentist may be considering for the patient’s procedure.  When patients provide a complete profile of their medical history and other pertinent family health information, this minimizes the risk of adverse side effects to sedation.
  • Be honest about all medical conditions. Often, patient pride or emotional struggles concerning any preexisting health conditions or disease statuses may deter them from being upfront with health care providers. However, it is important that patients are forthright with their dentist about existing health conditions and diseases or disorders, as their treatment may be impacted. This is why it is important for patients to find a dentist they trust. Having a comfortable, trusting relationship with their dentist makes patients feel more comfortable about being open and honest with them about their preexisting medical conditions and health history.
  • Follow pre-procedural care as advised. When dentists provide patients of pretreatment required regimens, it is important these are followed as instructed. Such information is provided to reduce the chances that adverse reactions will happen on the day of the procedure.

In conclusion, a beautiful smile is still an achievable goal even if you’ve always had a fear and loathing about dental office visits and procedures. As innovation in sedation practices continues to advance, the pain and discomfort of dental procedures is swiftly becoming a thing of the past. The key to reducing pain and discomfort during dental procedures, though is to be straightforward with your dentist about your present state of health and your full medical history. 

Knowing that adverse side effects are possible like post-procedural intoxication help you prepare for your procedure. Having a friend or family member drive you to and from the procedure means you will have a safe way of getting to the dentist and back home after your visit. Since most of the sedatives wear off shortly after the procedure, your dentist may also prescribe a pain reliever…especially for more complex procedures or if you have a low pain tolerance. You may be able to resume your daily activities soon after your procedure, as long as you follow the post-procedural care instructions provided by your dentist. 
It is important to note: not all dental clinics offer sedation dentistry as a service. Consider contacting Mill Dam Virginia Beach Dental Care for your next procedure. At Mill Dam, dentists do everything possible to make the experience comfortable and pleasant. Talk to your local Virginia Beach dentist today, and soon you too can enjoy showing off your pearly whites.