Up to 40% of Canadians have fear and anxiety about going to the dentist. Dental anxiety is one of the main reasons people avoid or delay regular check-ups and dental hygiene appointments. This can lead to small issues, like fillings, becoming much bigger problems, like root canals or infections. One of the ways dentists can manage anxiety during a dental visit is by utilizing sedation or sleep dentistry. Sedation often allows the dentist to do more work in one visit than what would be possible if the patient was fully conscious. Reducing the number of visits needed to complete treatment can make an anxious patient feel more at ease.
Dental anxiety is one of the main reasons people avoid or delay regular check-ups and dental hygiene appointments.
There are a few different types of sedation available to make dental visits more comfortable including nitrous oxide, oral conscious sedation, intravenous (IV) sedation, and general anesthesia.
Dentists can manage anxiety during a dental visit by utilizing sedation or sleep dentistry.
Nitrous oxide commonly called "laughing gas", can help to relax the patient while he/she remains conscious. It works via a nasal inhaler which is placed over the patient's nose. The dentist allows the patient to inhale for a few minutes and then proceeds with dental treatment. The patient might feel like he/she is "floating" during the procedure. When combined with a local anesthetic, it can make a dental procedure pain-free.
Oral conscious sedation involved taking a sedative such as Diazepam or Valium. The dentist administers the drug about an hour before the appointment to relax the patient. As with nitrous oxide, the patient remains fully conscious, but feels relaxed and maybe even a little sleepy or incoherent.
Intravenous (IV) sedation is administered into the blood system through a needle in the arm. Usually, an anti-anxiety or sedative drug is used to induce a state of deep relaxation. These drugs can also produce partial or complete memory loss of the procedure. Many patients remember nothing about their dental treatment and do not feel any pain.
General anesthesia (GA) is the only sedation technique that places the patient into a fully unconscious state. General anesthesia is performed in a hospital setting by an anesthesiologist. Most patients do not require this form of sedation and it is often reserved for complex cases (such as those involving oral surgery) or for children.
Aside from those with dental anxiety or dental phobia, sedation dentistry may be recommended if the patient has had negative dental experiences in the past, patients with a strong gag reflex, patients who are resistant to local anesthetics, and patients having extensive or complex dental treatments.
If you have a fear of the dentist, be sure to ask about options for sedation when discussing your dental treatment. Dental Grants offer up to 30% towards your dental treatment, including sedation or sleep dentistry.