Sedation dentistry: Relief for dental anxiety?

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Sedation dentistry: Relief for dental anxiety?

Question

I have not been to the dentist for many years because of a previous bad experience. Now, I need some dental work done, and I'm terrified. What can I do to get through it?

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Answer

Many people experience some level of trepidation about dental procedures. This is normal — especially if you've had a prior bad experience. Talk to your dentist about your concerns and ask him or her about the possibility of using dental sedation.

Sedation dentistry involves the use of medications to allow you to relax and feel sleepy during a dental visit or procedure. This is referred to as conscious sedation. However, sedation is not pain medication, so you will still require local anesthesia, such as Novocain, during treatment.

There are a variety of sedation dentistry methods. The most common types are inhaled sedation, which involves breathing in a mixture of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and oxygen; and oral sedatives, which are medications taken by mouth. Another type of dental sedation is intravenous (IV) sedation, which is provided by dentists with specialized training in IV sedation. The major advantage of IV sedation is the ability to adjust the level of sedation when needed.

With conscious sedation, you breathe on your own. You're also responsive to vocal commands and sensory stimulation. You may feel so relaxed that you fall asleep during the procedure. Afterwards, you may feel groggy and disoriented and may require help getting home. In addition, you may not remember what happened during the time you were sedated.

Conscious sedation is safe when administered by dentists trained in its use. However, as with any medication, sedation involves a certain amount of risk. It is important to talk to your dentist about these risks.

Last Updated: 02/05/2007
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