Despite being a cliché, dental anxiety is far from uncommon. In fact, research estimates that up to 15% of the U.S. adult population suffers from some degree of fear or anxiety when it comes to visiting their dentist. The severity with which a patient can be affected can range widely between individuals. Some may be fearful and nervous but are able to naturally overcome these emotions in order to see their dentist and get the care that they need to enjoy good oral health. However, for many others, their dental anxiety is so severe that they simply can’t bear to see a dentist. These patients may delay seeing a professional until their pain or dental problem is so serious that they cannot cope any longer. Often this causes irreversible damage to their teeth and oral health – something which could have been avoided if they had been seen regularly by their dentist or sought help early on. This is also important since research has found that patients with poor dental hygiene and problems like decay and gum disease could be more likely to go on to develop chronic health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and more.
Fortunately, there is a solution that can help even the most severely anxious patients to overcome their fear so that they can receive the dental care that they need to protect their long-term oral health and the appearance of their smile – sedation dentistry.
Sedation dentistry is the name used to describe the use of sedative medications in dental treatments. They are used to help induce a state of calm, controlled relaxation to patients who might otherwise find it difficult to tolerate dental treatment owing to anxiety. Sedation dentistry may also be used to help patients who have physical or cognitive disabilities that need support to undergo dental treatment.
There are various levels of sedation available. Most dentists will always offer the lowest amount of sedation possible based on the type of work that you require and the extent of your fear. For example, the deepest level of sedation is rarely offered for patients who require a simple cavity filling. Meanwhile, light sedation probably isn’t sufficient to help someone with dental anxiety who needs root canal treatment. Sedation medications are combined with anesthetic to ensure that you aren’t in any pain during your treatment.
The various levels of sedation include:
Light sedation. Typically administered in the form of nitrous oxide delivered through a mask placed over your nose. The effects last only as long as you are breathing the gas, maybe a few seconds longer, and you will be able to drive yourself home after. You will still be fully aware while you breathe the gas but will feel relaxed and calm.
Moderate sedation. This is usually given in a tablet/pill form which you take an hour or so before your appointment. This sedation will make you much more relaxed and you may only be vaguely aware of what is happening around you. The effects take a few hours to wear off and you will need someone else to drive you home after your appointment.
Deep sedation. Deep sedation is delivered intravenously and will place you right on the edge of consciousness. You will be unaware of anything that happens and will have no memory of the treatment. Again, you will need someone to drive you home after your appointment.
In some instances, patients may be so severely anxious that they require general anesthetic which is where you are put to sleep during your procedure. Your dentist will talk to you about this if they feel that this is necessary.
For more information about relieving dental anxiety with sedation dentistry, please don’t hesitate to contact our expert dental care team in Jackson, WI.