Conscious Sedation: Ways to Help You Relax at the Dental Clinic
Dental phobia is a common concern for many people. Either through poor early experiences or general anxiety, many people simply dislike visiting the dentist. Many more are terrified or repulsed by the idea of dental instruments in their mouths, particularly drills and scraping tools.
Fear of dental treatment can be addressed in a variety of ways. Counselling is an excellent way of addressing the issue on a deeper, more fundamental level. For those who have neither the time, money, nor inclination, various forms of sedation are always available. These include oral sedation prior to a treatment, intravenous sedation, or even general anaesthetic.
The patient and the dentist will decide the best course of action together. They’ll need to take into account both the type of procedure and the level of the patient’s anxiety. Certain health conditions will also determine what method of sedation is safe to use, and this will be discussed with your dentist.
Types of Sedation
Once all factors have been considered, your dentist will recommend one of the following types of sedation.
Verbal Sedation and Distractions
For patients with the mildest of anxiety, simply having the procedure explained calmly and clearly can help set them at ease.
Some patients with mild anxiety are actually just overthinking the process. In cases like these, many dentists now offer headphones or ceiling-mounted television screens so patients can listen to music or watch a movie while the work is done. This keeps their mind off the dental environment and can be very effective for a lot of people.
An oral sedative is a pill taken prior to the appointment to calm a patient’s nerves. It’s prescribed by the dentist and taken within a few hours of the start of the procedure. By the time the work begins, the patient should feel at ease. For stronger cases of anxiety, oral sedation can be combined with other forms of sedation for a thoroughly stress-free experience.
Nitrous Oxide Sedation
Nitrous oxide is also known as “laughing gas” because of of the euphoric sensation it can produce. A breathing “hood” is placed over the patient’s nose and a precise mix of oxygen and nitrous oxide is fed to the patient through tubes from several gas tanks.
The ratio of gases used in the mix is carefully monitored, and it’s even safe to use on children. Nitrous oxide can often negate the need for local anaesthetic in children during some procedures.
Intravenous sedation is fed directly into the bloodstream, and is often a mix of sedative and painkiller. It’s the fastest acting sedative method, and also the fastest to wear off. It allows the dentist very precise control over the patient’s level of sedation.
Under intravenous sedation the patient remains awake but drowsy. They’re still able to respond to questions and follow instructions, but generally will not remember much of the procedure once it’s over. Time seems to pass very quickly under intravenous sedation.
General anaesthetic is only used where deemed absolutely necessary, and is typically used for surgical procedures like dental implants. While sedatives make a patient drowsy and forgetful, general anaesthetic renders them entirely unconscious.
General anaesthetic is administered by a specialist anaesthetist, who closely monitors the patient’s vital signs while they’re unconscious. Recovery takes longer and can be much less pleasant than with sedatives like intravenous sedation.
Safety of Sedation and General Anaesthesia
Sedative and general anaesthesia are low risk and safe. Negative reactions to sedatives are very rare, and only marginally higher to general anaesthetic.
The very young, the very old, and those with certain existing health conditions will face a higher risk factor, particularly with general anaesthesia. This will be discussed at length with your dentist.
Treatment of Children
General anaesthesia allows dentists to work longer and perform more treatments on a patient, particularly with children. General anaesthesia may be recommend for children who are:
- very frightened
- too young to fully understand what’s going on
- physically or intellectually disabled
- in a lot of of pain
- suffering from injured teeth
- in need of long or complicated treatments.
Treatment of the Elderly
Elderly patients are more likely to take medications and have medical problems. Sedation is often a better option as there are less contra-indicators than general anaesthetic. The dentist will take this into consideration and always recommend the safest, best choice for the patient.
Preparing for Sedation or Anaesthesia
Your dentist will give you detailed instructions tailored to your particular situation. It’s important to follow these instructions exactly, as ignoring them may result in serious complications during treatment.
It is vital that your dentist knows your dental and medical history when discussing sedation and general anaesthesia. You must alert your dentist of all prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbal and alternative treatments you are taking. Any history of allergies or adverse reactions to sedatives, anaesthetics or other drugs must be made known.
All medical information, including dental, is confidential between you and your dentist.
- Always arrange for transport to and from the dentist. While some sedatives wear off quickly, they can potentially still impede your ability to drive for around 24-48 hours after your treatment. It’s safest to get transport, rest for a few hours afterwards, and ideally give yourself a full day to rest and recover.
- A light meal may be consumed after treatment, and can help combat nausea. It’s always best to eat prior to taking painkillers or antibiotics.
- Avoid alcohol for 24 hours.
- Do not take any non-prescription medications for 24 hours.
If you’re anxious about seeing the dentist, contact us at Putney Dental Care today. We offer a wide range of conscious sedative and general anaesthetic options for our patients, to ensure they can get the treatment they need without stress or anxiety.
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