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Why Some Dentists Offer Sedation Dentistry

A trip to the dentist can be challenging for people with high levels of dental anxiety. Some patients may even skip cleanings or delay important dental procedures because of dental phobia. Fortunately, gentle sedation dentistry has helped many dental patients overcome dental anxiety. So, if sedatives help prevent panic at the dentist, why do some dentists offer them to their patients while others don’t?

The answer is quite simple. Not all dentists have the certification they need to offer this service. Using sedatives takes special training and experience. This is especially true for doctors who are licensed to provide patients with IV sedation or general anesthesia.

There’s More to It than Pills and Laughing Gas

The Texas Dental Board will only allow dentists with extensive training and clinical experience to administer deep sedation dentistry. Dentists are required to have credentials and the right training to provide options for their patients like deep sedation, IV sedation dentistry, and general anesthetic.

What is Sedation Dentistry?

Dental sedation is good for patients undergoing lengthy or multiple dental procedures during the same dental visit, as well as patients with severe dental anxiety. There are four options for dental patients available today:    

  • Oral sedation
  • Nitrous oxide (also known as “laughing gas”)
  • IV sedation
  • General anesthesia

Different dentists will offer different options based on their training and credentials. Some dentists even have the skills and resources to offer all four.

Oral Sedation

Also known as conscious sedation, oral sedation usually means taking a pill one hour before a procedure or the night before, depending on the patient’s anxiety levels.

Patients are awake during the procedure with an overall feeling of calmness. Many people who have undergone this don’t remember much, if anything, about the dental procedure. Keep in mind, with oral sedatives a patient may have to wait for a period of time before the effects kick in.     

Because oral sedatives make patients sleepy after a dental procedure, you will need someone to drive you to and from the dentist’s office.

Nitrous Oxide

Although nitrous oxide is often referred to as “laughing gas,” that doesn’t mean you’ll be chuckling throughout a dental treatment. Nitrous oxide is inhaled through a mask placed over the patient’s nose. It works quickly, soothing the patient in as little as 30 seconds.

Nitrous oxide was first used by dentists in the mid-1800s, making it the oldest form of dental sedation still being offered by some dentists. These days it is a less common option. Some dentists no longer offer nitrous oxide, as it is not the most effective treatment available today.

IV Sedation

IV sedation helps patients overcome dental anxiety with an intravenous sedative. That sedative goes directly into the bloodstream and relaxes the patient almost immediately. Throughout a procedure using an IV, the dentist and their team will monitor the patient’s level of sedation, which can range from light to deep.

IV medicine produces a state of relaxation that is controlled and administered in small increments. During the procedure, your dentist and their team will also measure your breathing and oxygen levels, EKG, heart rate and pulse. One of the best things about this option is that it produces a state of deep relaxation like no other type of dental sedative, with the exception of general anesthetic.  

What is Twilight Sleep?

While IV sedation dentistry is often referred to as twilight sleep or sleep dentistry, you will be conscious and able to understand what your dentist is saying and doing, however the sedative will help reduce anxiety and make you feel calm. You will be able to respond to commands and requests during the procedure.     

IV sedatives begin to work within minutes. While they are working, you will not feel pain or anxiety and will remain in a semi- awake state. Many patients prefer IV sedation during their dental procedures because it works quickly and is very effective.

General Anesthetic

It is rare to offer general anesthetic to relieve dental anxiety and dental phobia because not all dentists are trained or licensed to perform this method. Patients who are undergoing oral surgery or are resistant to types of dental sedation may require general anesthesia. During general anesthesia, the patient will fall asleep and won’t remember anything after waking from the dental procedure. With this form of anesthetic, patients should have a friend or family member take them home from the dentist.

Who Benefits from Sedation Dentistry?

Patients who benefit from using sedatives include people with high dental anxiety and dental fear. People who do not respond as well to other types of anesthesia also reap the benefits. Additionally, if you find dental procedures very uncomfortable and have trouble completing them, this may be the solution.

Solutions for Dental Anxiety

If you experience high levels of anxiety about trips to the dentist, sedation dentistry can be an effective solution. Dr. Randy Mitchmore has the training and education required to offer IV sedation dentistry to his patients. If you think IV sedation might be a good solution for you, the team at LifeSmiles by Randy Mitchmore, DDS can answer any questions about our anxiety solutions. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.


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