Sedation is the administration of medication to relax patients with dental anxiety or special needs. It is also used to make patients feel more comfortable during an invasive or complex procedure.
Dental anxiety is so common that 50 to 80% of all Americans report experiencing some degree of dental anxiety. Read on in this blog from Smile Ark Pediatric Dentistry to find out how sedation dentistry can make your child’s next dental appointment more comfortable.
Dental anxiety is fear or stress in anticipation of going to the dentist. When it’s severe enough to cause total avoidance of going to the dentist, this is considered a phobia. This is a significant barrier to overcome for dentists who want to ensure patients are getting the dental treatment they need.
This is why most dental practices offer sedation to induce patients into a much calmer state, melt away negative emotions, and make them feel like they’re in a dream-like state or totally unaware of their surroundings.
Each sedative varies in intensity and you may feel different depending on the type of sedation you receive. Generally, you will feel more relaxed and will not remember the procedure afterward because of the amnesiac effects of sedation.
Laughing gas is another name for nitrous oxide gas, which is administered through the nose with a nasal mask that pumps oxygen and laughing gas. As you inhale these gases, you will instantly feel euphoric, relaxed, calm, warm, and tingly within just a few minutes.
Some patients feel giddy and may start laughing, but this is not always the case. This is a conscious form of sedation so the patient remains aware of all of their surroundings and can respond to the dentist.
They may feel a little sleepy but are unlikely to fall asleep. This is the lowest-risk sedative and is considered very safe because of how mild it is. After the appointment, your child can return to normal activities because this gas doesn’t linger in the body.
While oral conscious sedation is also a fully conscious form of sedation, the sedative is more intense than laughing gas. It is administered orally through a pill that is used to treat anxiety. Patients take this pill one hour before their appointment and it kicks in by the time they arrive.
The effects of this sedative include drowsiness, relaxation, feeling like you are in a daze, and falling asleep. Oral conscious sedation does not put patients into a state of unconsciousness but patients often feel very tired and may briefly fall asleep.
However, we will be able to easily wake you and you will remain generally responsive. You will not remember anything from your appointment and will feel quite groggy afterward.
IV sedation or twilight sleep is when sedation is administered directly to your veins through an IV. This is the deepest form of sedation that you can receive in the dental chair. The dose of the sedative can be altered and range from moderate to deep sedation.
IV sedation can kick in within a few minutes but most patients fall asleep within 15 to 30 minutes. When sedation is moderate, you will feel very sleepy but can generally respond to questions if spoken to.
Deeper sedation will put you to sleep without the need for breathing assistance because breathing remains automatic. You are not fully unconscious but will have little awareness of your surroundings.
This is a good option for severe anxiety and invasive procedures. During your appointment, the dentist will monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels.
A general anesthetic will put your child into a state of unconsciousness. They will require a breathing tube to maintain a normal breathing rate during the procedure and they will have zero awareness of their surroundings during the procedure because they will be completely asleep and will not wake up.
General anesthesia can be administered through a few different methods such as inhalation, IV, or a combination of things. Your child will feel knocked out within just a few seconds and then will wake up feeling like no time has passed at all, but the treatment will be over.
They may need to stay for a little while so we can observe them and ensure that they are ready to go home. General anesthesia is generally reserved for invasive procedures like oral surgery or patients with severe anxiety or special needs.
This sedative is only administered in a hospital setting alongside a certified anesthesiologist. All of their vitals are carefully monitored throughout the procedure.
Dental sedation is generally safe when administered by a professional dentist in a carefully controlled environment, where your child’s vitals will be monitored the entire time.
A certified and experienced dentist will place your child’s safety as their top priority and will carefully review their medical history to ensure that sedation is safe for them.
Nitrous oxide is the mildest and safe sedative that we offer so this would be a good option to try if you are concerned. Children with respiratory issues are not considered good candidates for laughing gas because they need to breathe through their noses.
There is little preparation necessary for laughing gas. Your child should just fast for 2 hours leading up to their appointment. We recommend that you give them a light breakfast 2 hours before the procedure.
You do not need to make any other arrangements but need to tell us if there is any reason that breathing through their nose is obstructed. For the other sedatives, your child will need to fast for 6 hours before their appointment. It is best to schedule their appointment for first thing in the morning so they don’t feel too tired or cranky.
Afterward, you will need to monitor your child for the rest of the day if they received any sedative aside from laughing gas. These sedatives linger in the body for up to 24 hours and your child will face some restrictions during this time. They will likely feel very groggy and want to rest when they get home.
If your child experiences high levels of stress or anxiety in anticipation of going to the dentist or while they’re at the dental office, dental sedation can be a saving grace. Contact us at Smile Ark Pediatric Dentistry to schedule a consultation with Dr. Lee.