Dental Sedation

Most of our patients are not usually anxious when they see us, since we have a rapport with our long-term patients that puts a focus on trust and communication throughout our time working with them. While we doubt that any of our patients would volunteer to take additional injections or undergo additional procedures, they do not go out of their way to avoid important procedures due to anxiety.

Some patients, however, come to us with a history of dentistry-related anxiety. When this occurs, we like to begin our work by asking our new patient about their experiences with previous dentists. Sometimes, we are able to trace the source of their anxiety back to a traumatic incident.  When this is the case, we take the time to ensure that our new patient feels confident in our communication strategy and we look for ways to make their experience with us more comfortable.

We know that patients who are afraid to go to the dentist often just… don’t. Instead, they risk developing a serious condition and overlooking an opportunity for early detection. We understand the burden that anxiety can place on the patient and our priority is to help alleviate concerns if at all possible.

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Reasons for Anxiety

There are many reasons for patient anxiety, but the patients who are at most risk of developing this fear are patients diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), PTSD, and a history of trauma to the head and neck. Other conditions, like bipolar disorder and depression can also increase the likelihood of fear at the dentist.

Signs that we watch for include is flushing, sweating, breathing heavy and a hand over a racing heart. Anxiety can be the reason for low blood pressure and consequential fainting, while in children we see more evidence of crying, panic and visible distress. As a rule, however, fear of the dentist can affect anyone of any age.

From an anxious patient’s point of view, dental visits require that they lay back in a vulnerable position and allow access to a vulnerable part of the body. Feelings of claustrophobia can occur in some patients who are distressed by the bright lights and intrusive nature of dentistry as the dental team looms above. We understand how this must feel for our patients, and we work to find a way to allow them to maintain calm while in the dental chair. Not only are nervous patients more likely to prolong a procedure by moving repeatedly, but severe anxiety can cause tension migraines and unnecessary stress on the body. If you see yourself in these descriptions, there are solutions for you.

Oral Sedation

In cases where patients express concern about their level of anxiety, your dentist may discuss whether oral sedation is an option for you. There are two forms of sedation available through your dentist: nitrous oxide gas and benzodiazepine oral medication.

Laughing Gas

Nitrous gas, commonly known as laughing gas, is the first line of defense against the effects of anxiety. The benefits of this gas are numerous, beginning with the fact that this form of sedation dissipates quickly – allowing you to choose your means of transportation when you leave the clinic. The effects of the gas will leave your organs without a trace in a matter of minutes and when that occurs, you are safe to drive.

Because of its quick onset and safe history, laughing gas is a tool often used to help nervous children remain calm. Despite its effectiveness with children, nitrous oxide continues to be broadly used.

Laughing gas provides a mild painkilling effect but more prominently induces a passive and euphoric feeling in patients. Unlike oral medications, the gas can be readministered as directed by the patient who remains conscious and capable of communication.

Oral Medications

For more consistent anxiety coverage over a longer period, your dentist may prescribe a benzodiazepine oral medication. Usually, these are taken one hour ahead of your visit to the dentist to be in full effect by the time of your scheduled procedure.

Oral medications are safe when prescribed by a doctor or dentist and operate on suppressing the central nervous system in order to introduce passivity and drowsiness. Patients who use oral medications may doze off during a procedure, but they remain conscious and can be roused at any time to communicate with the dentist. They typically remain drowsy for the remainder of the day.

Once a patient takes an oral sedative, a full 24 hours must pass before they drive a motor vehicle, make financial decisions or cross roads on foot. These patients will require a known caregiver to take them home to recover at the end of their procedure. The safety of our patients is always our first priority.

For questions about this or other services offered by our general dentist, contact our clinic today.

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