As a sedation dentist, we have the unique ability to affect the life of people who are, otherwise, terrified of seeking the treatment they need. According to some studies, as many as 8% of all Americans are so afraid of the dentist that they will never seek the medical attention or preventative care that they need. There are numerous factors that influence why a person becomes so afraid of dental procedures. Sometimes the fears come from a bad, or perceived bad, experience while at other times people have a great deal of anxiety because of the perceived lack of control in the dentist chair. Sitting back in a chair, with one's mouth open to the point of barely being able to talk, can cause anxiety. Aware of this anxiety, a sedation dentist has made an effort to provide a medical solution to these fears. Sedation dentistry is not the same as “sleep dentistry” since putting the patient to sleep is not the objective. Rather, our objective is to make the procedure as comfortable as possible, and give the patient just enough sedation to achieve that goal. Sometimes we do have to put a person to sleep in order to achieve this, but in most cases, milder sedation is enough to take off the edge.
There are four different levels of sedation that can be administered.
- Mild Sedation: This is the most commonly used forms of sedation, where you are fully conscious, but are given a mild sedative that helps you take the edge off. You will be fully relaxed and not stressed out by the procedures while being aware of what is taking place.
- Moderate Sedation: Moderate sedation is also known as conscious sedation because you will still be fully conscious, but may have some heaviness in your tongue during the recovery phase which could cause slurred speech.
- Deep Sedation: Best described as a form of light sleep, this kind of sedation keeps you conscious, but in a state that is on the border of being asleep. You can be easily awakened, but tend to be less aware of the procedures and activities going on around you.
- General Anesthesia: This is truly the only form of “sleep dentistry”, in the arsenal of sedation dentists. You will be fully unconscious during the procedure and will require the normal recovery time, often several hours.
There are a number of options that we will need to discuss with you, including how you would like the anesthesia delivered. There are a number of ways that the anesthesia can be given to you. You can elect to receive mild sedation by inhalation, where we will place a mask over your nose and mouth and deliver the medication. Typically this is nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, which will cause you to relax. You can choose mild or moderate sedation, which can be given to you in the form of a pill. For heavier sedation, typically we would use an IV, which puts the anesthesia solution directly into the blood stream and allows us to monitor and adjust the levels as needed. To learn more about these options and to speak with a sedation dentist, call and schedule your consultation.