Washington Center for Cosmetic & Family Dentistry
What is Sedation Dentistry?
Sedation dentistry involves the use of medications to allow a patient to relax when they are having a procedure done. Often known as sleep dentistry, sedation dentistry doesn’t indeed involve putting a patient to sleep, in most cases. Only those patients who require general anesthesia will be put to rest. Dentists now offer anything from minimal sedation, where the patient is awake and relaxed, to general anesthesia. Other options include moderate sedation, where the patient is awake yet won’t remember much of the work done and typically can’t speak clearly, and deep sedation, where the patient can be awoken, yet is on the edge of consciousness.
Sedation Dentistry Options
Oral sedation often comes in the form of a pill, in many cases, Halcion. The dosage of the medicine determines the amount of sedation provided, anywhere from minimal to moderate, and it is usually taken approximately one hour before the dental work takes place. Patients tend to remain awake with minimal sedation, but may doze off if a more significant dose is given. If a patient does fall asleep, he or she can easily be woken up once the work is done.
Laughing gas or nitrous oxide combined with oxygen is another form of minimal sedation. The dentist determines the amount of sedation needed, and patients find the effects wear off quickly. Patients who choose this option drive themselves home after the dental work is finished, and this is the only type of sedation where this is an option.
Moderate sedation may also be obtained through the use of a sedative drug provided via IV. This sedation works quickly, and the dentist can change the amount of sedation offered at any time during the procedure. Some patients like knowing they don’t have to worry about the sedation wearing off before they are done.
For those with an intense fear of the dentist, general anesthesia or deep sedation offers the highest level of unconsciousness. Patients using these medications will be totally or almost unconscious throughout the work. Patients can’t be easily awakened until the sedation wears off or until the medication is provided to reverse the sedative.
One thing patients need to understand is local anesthesia will still be required. This is the medication injected at the site where the dentist will be performing the work. This local anesthetic ensures pain at the site of the procedure isn’t an issue.
Who Benefits From Sedation Dentistry?
Patients who fear the dentist find they can have the needed work with the help of sedation dentistry, and the same is true of those who become anxious when in the dental chair. Individuals who struggle with a low pain threshold, have an exaggerated gag reflex or need a great deal of work often turns to sedation dentistry. The same is true of those with sensitive teeth and those unable to remain still while having a job done on their teeth. Specific forms of sedation may also be used on children, such as nitrous oxide, although other types often require specialized care.
Dentists vary in terms of the type of sedation they may provide. Only those who have completed a program in general anesthesia or deep sedation through the Commission on Dental Accreditation can give this type of care, and some practices now employ a dentist anesthesiologist for this reason. The dentist anesthesiologist undergoes training for every kind of sedation for both adults and children.
The Safety Of Sedation Dentistry
Individuals need to understand the use of anesthesia always comes with risks. In most cases, however, it’s safe when administered by someone with the proper training. Specific individuals, such as those with obstructive sleep apnea or ones who are obese, need to speak to their physician before being sedated, as their risk of complications is higher.
When providing sedation, your dentist will need your complete medical history, know which medications are currently being taken, and will review the risks with the patient. Vital signs need to be monitored throughout the procedure, and drugs that reverse the sedation effects and oxygen must be on hand at all times.
Sedation dentistry allows patients to obtain the dental care they need. Everyone must care for their teeth, as oral health plays a role in overall health. If you fear the dentist or have a problem that prevents you from getting this care, or have any questions regarding our dentistry services, contact us at 202-363-2500. We’ll work with you to find a solution that meets your needs and lets you get the care required.