Dental Tips Blog


Benefits of Oral Sedation

Some patients need a little “extra” something to help them relax during their dental treatment. Perhaps they have a lot of treatment that needs to be completed, a more invasive procedure, or they’re just nervous about dental work. Dentists understand this, and that’s why the use of oral sedation has become so popular in modern dental care.

Oral sedation is a “conscious” sedation. That means that although you’re sedated, you’re still able to answer simple questions or perform simple things such as sitting upright or turning your head. However, you most likely won’t remember a single thing about your appointment. Most people describe oral sedation like dreaming or taking a light nap. To achieve this level of sedation, a prescription sedative is given to the patient one hour prior to their scheduled treatment. A second dose may be given at the time of treatment, if the dentist feels it is needed. It can take a few hours for the medication to fully wear off, so large amounts of treatment can be completed in a single sitting. Not only is it easier for you as a patient, it’s also easier for the dental team! But, you will need a friend or family member to escort you to and from the dental appointment.

Patients of all ages can request oral sedation dentistry, but only a dentist that is certified in the administration of oral conscious sedation can perform the treatment. If you’re curious about oral sedation treatments for your dental care, be sure to choose a dentist that is trained and certified in the procedure. It prevent you from needing to have care completed in a surgical facility and make it convenient since the care can be completed in your regular dental office.

Posted on behalf of Dr. Hye Park



Sedation Dentistry For Busy People

Have you been putting off dental care because your treatment will take several visits to the dentist and you can’t take that much time off from work?  Is your busy schedule preventing you from getting much needed dental care?  If so, sedation dentistry may be the answer for you.

Sedation dentistry is commonly recommended for patients with moderate to severe dental anxiety, uncontrollable gag reflex, or special needs patients who cannot tolerate traditional dental care.  However, it is an excellent alternative for patients who need extensive dental care or complex dental treatments and want to get as much work done in a single visit as possible.

Sedation dentistry is becoming increasingly popular with busy professionals and other people on the go who want to minimize the number of dental appointments.  Dentists with advanced training in sedation dentistry perform dental procedures while the patient is more heavily sedated than with traditional dentistry.  Oral or intravenous sedatives are used to sedate the patient.

In most cases, the patient is conscious during the procedure, but so relaxed that they will sleep through the dental treatment.  The patient can be easily awakened to respond to questions if needed.  The patient feels no pain or discomfort and generally remembers little or nothing about the treatment.

In some cases fully unconscious sedation is a more effective alternative.  Called sleep sedation dentistry or hospital dentistry, this is a very specialized type of dental practice.  Procedures are done in a hospital operating room or surgical suite with the assistance of an anesthesiologist and surgical nurses.

The patient is relaxed and comfortable which allows the dentist to work more efficiently.  In addition, the patient can easily tolerate lengthy dental care allowing the sedation dentist to complete several treatments that would ordinarily have required multiple visits.  You can have several cavities filled, a root canal, dental veneers placed, implants placed, and gum disease treated all during single sedation visit.

If your busy schedule makes it difficult to schedule multiple dental appointments or if you simply prefer the convenience of getting all of your dental work done in one or two visits, you may be a great candidate for sedation dentistry!


Misconceptions About Sedation Dentistry

Sedation dentistry is a relatively recent development in dentistry that offers painless, anxiety free dental care for patients who cannot tolerate traditional dental techniques.  However, many misconceptions exist about sedation dentistry that may be unnecessarily keeping some patients from getting the dental care they need.

For example, not all sedation dentistry is the same.  There are many different levels of sedation from very mild oral sedatives and nitrous oxide to full, unconscious sedation under general anesthesia and everything in between.  Most dentists only offer conscious sedation which may or may not include intravenous sedation.

Dentistry under general anesthesia is a highly specialized area of dentistry practiced by relatively few dentists.  Fortunately, most patients can have comfortable dental care with conscious sedation.

One effect of most sedatives is that the patient has little or no memory of the procedure after the sedative wears off.  This leads patients to believe that they were unconscious during sedation but except for dentistry under general anesthesia, the patient is always conscious and able to respond to commands and answer questions. Sometimes the patient is so relaxed that they will nod off, but they can be awoken at any time while under sedation.

Some patients avoid sedation dentistry due to the initial increased cost.  In the long run, sedation dentistry may actually save money.  With sedation dentistry, patients are less inclined to put off necessary dental care.  This saves money since the sooner the procedure is completed, the less damage there will have been to the tooth and the less expensive the treatment will be.  Putting off dental care will result in more extensive and more expensive dental care in the future.

In addition, sedation dentistry can save money by allowing several procedures to be completed in a single visit.  By completing treatments in a single visit that would have taken two or three visits, the cost of sedation dentistry may even be less than traditional dentistry.


Comfortable Dental Care With Sedation Dentistry

The days of every dental visit being an exercise in anxiety and discomfort are long gone.  No longer do you need to spend the entire visit with your heart racing while you grip the arms of the dental chair until you knuckles turn white.  Sedation dentistry has developed in recent years that ensures that every patient can have a comfortable, relaxed dental experience no matter what their anxiety level or other dental issues.

Sedation dentistry encompasses a wide range of sedation levels to fit the needs of every patient. The mildest form of sedation is the use of nitrous oxide, also called laughing gas.  For many patients, this is all that they need to relax and have a comfortable experience.  For patients who need further sedation, many dentists offer oral or intravenous conscious sedation.

With conscious sedation, the patient is very sedated, but still conscious. They can respond to questions although after the sedation wears off, most patients have no memory of the treatment.  Dental procedures under conscious sedation are usually performed in the dentist’s office.

The deepest level of sedation is fully unconscious sedation and these procedures are handled in a specially equipped surgical suite or in a hospital operating room.  Not all dentists practice the full range of sedation dentistry.  The deeper the level of sedation, the more additional training that the dentist is required to have and many dentists choose not to handle fully unconscious sedation.

However, relatively few dental patients need full, unconscious sedation. Most patients can have very comfortable, anxiety free dental care with the appropriate level of conscious sedation.  If you avoid getting regular dental care because of uncomfortable experiences in the past or if you have other issues that make getting regular dental care difficult, unpleasant or uncomfortable, talk to your dentist about the benefits of sedation dentistry.


How Does Intravenous (IV) Sedation Work?

An estimated 40 to 50 million Americans suffer from some degree of dental anxiety.  These patients may have had a bad experience at the dentist, they may be afraid of needles, or they may be self conscious about their oral health.  Whatever the reason, if you are one of these patients you should know that you are not alone.  It is very common to have some anxiety about any dental procedure.

Fortunately, sleep and sedation dentistry is now available that can provide many patients with a painless, anxiety free dental experience.  Your dentist may have recommended that you have intravenous sedation, or you may have heard that is a great way to get the dental care you need safely and comfortably.

Unlike novocain that is injected to numb the area of the mouth where the dental procedure will be performed, intravenous sedation is used to calm and relax the patient.  Some dentists use oral sedatives, but intravenous (IV) sedation is much easier for your dentist to control the level and duration of the sedation.

Your dentist will administer the IV sedation which takes effect very quickly.  You will be conscious, but in a drowsy, very relaxed state.  After the sedative takes effect, novocain will be injected to block pain sensations, but you will probably not feel the novacain injection or even remember the procedure.

Throughout the procedure your blood pressure and blood oxygen level will be monitored and the effect can be quickly reversed if needed.  IV sedation is safely administered to millions of dental patients every year with excellent results.


Oral Sedation Concerns

Many dentists offer oral sedation to patients who suffer from dental anxiety or who want to “sleep through the procedure.”  Sleep and sedation dentistry can be beneficial for patients who have trouble tolerating dental procedures with just a local anesthetic such as novocaine, but oral sedation can be troublesome.

With oral sedation, the patient is typically instructed to take the prescribed medication a short period before their appointment.  The patient will be unable to drive after taking the medication and will need someone to transport them to and from their appointment.

With oral sedatives, it can be difficult to predict the effect of the sedative on the individual patient.  Each person reacts differently to oral medications and the sedative may have more or less effect on a given patient depending on the patient’s weight and other factors.

Another problem is that the dentist has no control over the level of sedation during the procedure.  The sedative may begin to wear off if the procedure takes longer than anticipated.  Since the sedative takes time to start working, it is almost impossible to adjust the level of sedation during the treatment.

Intravenous (IV) sedation may be a better option than oral sedation, but it is more difficult to find a dentist that offers IV sedation because it requires significant additional training and expensive equipment.  With IV sedation, the sedative takes immediate effect and can be adjusted during the procedure to keep the patient at a comfortable level of sedation.

IV sedation is more predictable and controllable than oral sedation and the effects wear off more quickly.  If you need sedation dentistry, talk to your dentist about the right type of sedation for you.


Difference Between Conscious and Unconscious Sedation

Sedation dentistry is a wonderful option for many people who would not or cannot tolerate dentistry in a traditional dental setting.   Many people have a fear of visiting the dentist, some of which can develop into a true “dental phobia”.  An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 have dental phobia sufficient to prevent them from seeking dental care.

Many other people have physical or developmental disabilities that make it difficult for them to receive dental care.  Others may have an uncontrollable gag reflex or they may not respond to local anesthetic such as Novocain. As a result, these patients avoid getting needed dental care and their oral health and overall health suffers.

Sleep and sedation dentistry is a type of dentistry where the patient is fully or partially sedated during the procedure.  Many advertisements for sedation dentistry suggest that the patient will be able to sleep through the procedure.

In some cases this may be true, but there is a difference between conscious sedation and unconscious sedation.  In conscious sedation, the patient is given a sedative either orally or intravenously the puts the patient in a very relaxed and drowsy state.

In some cases the patient may doze off, but the patient is always conscious.  They can respond to questions and follow directions.  Conscious sedatives partially block memory formation so even if the patient was not actually asleep, it may seem that way since they have little or no memory of the procedure.

In unconscious sedation, general anesthesia is used to fully sedate the patient.  The patient is unconscious throughout the procedure and cannot respond to questions or directions.

Whether conscious or unconscious sedation is right depends on each patient’s situation.  Talk to a qualified sleep and sedation dentist about the type of sedation that is best for you.


True Sleep and Sedation Dentistry

Many dentists advertise that they offer “sedation dentistry” but only a few dentists offer true sleep and sedation dentistry.  There are various levels of sedation used in dentistry.  The mildest form of sedation is nitrous oxide, often called “laughing gas”.  Nitrous oxide provides temporary feelings of relaxation and helps reduce anxiety.  The patient is fully conscious, can easily respond to questions, and is aware of what is going on around them.

The next level is mild sedation using oral medications.  The medication is usually taken before the patient arrives at the dentist’s office and he patient is very relaxed and drowsy.  Sometimes the patient will fall asleep during the dental procedure, but can be easily aroused to answer questions.  Most patients have limited memory of the treatment.

Most dentists only provide these first two levels of sedation.  However, a few sleep and sedation dentists have completed extensive training and can offer additional levels of sedation.  Intravenous sedation is administered in the dentist’s office and the level of sedation can be controlled during the procedure.  The patient is conscious, but in most cases sleeps through the procedure and has no memory of it afterward.

Dentistry under general anesthesia is the deepest level of sedation.  The patient is unconscious and fully sedated throughout the procedure.  Dentistry under general anesthesia is performed in a surgical suite either at a hospital or in the dentist’s office.  The patient has no memory of the procedure.

Talk to your dentist about the right level of sedation for you and your dental care needs.  If you need true sleep sedation, make sure your dentist has the necessary qualifications.


What’s the Difference Between Novocain and Sedation?

If you are one of the millions of Americans who have been told that you can benefit from sedation dentistry, you may be wondering what the difference is between sedation and novocain.  Novocain or other anesthetics have been used in dentistry for over 100 years.  On the other hand, sleep and sedation dentistry is a relatively recent development in dental practice, and it is a wonderful way for many Americans to get the dental care they need.

Novocain is a brand name of a local anesthetic that numbs an area of the patient’s mouth.  Novocain fell out of favor many years ago and was replaced by lidocaine and other anesthetics, but novocain has become a generic term for all of these anesthetics.

Novocain is injected into the area of the mouth where the dental work will be performed.  It numbs the area around the tooth or teeth by blocking pain sensations, but otherwise the patient is completely aware and fully conscious.  A patient can be given novocain to numb the area, but still have a very high degree of anxiety.

Sedation is primarily intended to relax and calm the patient.  Nitrous oxide or laughing gas is a very mild type of sedation that has been in use for many years, but modern sedation dentists can use either oral sedatives or intravenous sedatives to provide various levels of sedation.  Some sedatives have some pain-blocking component, but the primary purpose is to relax the patient and alleviate anxiety.

The patient will be conscious, but very drowsy.  The sedatives also impairs memory formation so in most cases, the patient will not remember even having the procedure.


Candidates for Hospital Sleep Dentistry

Sleep and sedation dentistry refers to a broad category of sedation alternatives used by dentists to relax patients and minimize discomfort and pain.  Arguably it includes everything from nitrous oxide (laughing gas), oral sedatives, and intravenous sedatives to full unconscious sedation under general anesthesia.  Each level of sedation best fits the needs of certain types of dental patients with some overlap depending on the needs of the patient and the dental procedures to be performed.

The deepest level of sedation used in dentistry is full unconscious sedation under general anesthesia.  A qualified anesthesiologist sedates and monitors the patient while the dentist performs the dental procedures.  Even though an anesthesiologist is involved, the dentist needs advanced training to perform dentistry under general anesthesia.  Most sleep and sedation dentists use a hospital operating room specially equipped for dentistry to treat dental patients under general anesthesia.

Generally speaking, your dentist will use the lowest level of sedation that will allow the procedure to be safely performed while providing the patient with a comfortable dental experience.  The dentist and patient will determine if general anesthesia is a good option, but possible candidates include patients who have severe dental anxiety, uncontrollable gag reflex, or physical, developmental, or medical conditions that make general anesthesia a better option than more moderate conscious sedation.

General anesthesia can also be a good alternative for patients that need extensive dental work.  The patient can have all of the work done in one or two procedures instead of having to return to the dentist’s office repeatedly over the course of weeks or months.  The patient only has a single recovery period and only has to take one or two days off from work.

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