Dental anxiety is a common phobia, which may affect individuals of any age. It manifests as fear of undergoing dental treatment or even visiting the dentist for a cleaning. Many people actually avoid going to the dentist because of this fear and as a result compromise their dental health.
Fortunately, there are several different sedation techniques available to help keep patients calm and relaxed during dental visits. Conscious sedation safely allows patients to feel sleepy but still aware during treatment, so that they can be worry-free while receiving the care they need.
Benefits of Conscious Sedation
Unlike anesthesia, which is used to relieve pain or to put patients to sleep for complex procedures, sedation focuses on treating anxiety and helping patients feel comfortable so that they can receive the care they need to keep their mouths healthy. Local anesthesia is still administered in most cases to help create relaxing, pain-free treatment.
Most dentists use conscious sedation, a state that lets patients feel relaxed while remaining awake and able to respond to commands. Patients will not remember most of the procedure with this sedation, but can still respond to commands by the dentist, ensuring that the procedure is performed as efficiently as possible.
Conscious Sedation Treatments
Conscious sedation may be administered using the following methods:
Oral - Oral medication is the most commonly used form of sedation for dental treatments. Patients are given a prescription for a sedative to be taken the night before or an hour before the treatment to create a relaxed, anxiety-free state.
Inhalation - Some patients may be sedated using nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, to achieve a relaxed sensation.
Side Effects of Conscious Sedation
Patients will need someone to drive them to and from their appointment, and should avoid driving for the rest of the day after treatment. It is common to experience mild nausea from the sedation, but this usually passes quickly.
Conscious sedation is considered safe and effective for most patients with a very low risk of complications. A dentist will decide which type of sedation is best for each patient based on the complexity of the condition and treatment, and on the patient's personal preference.
- Medline Plus
- National Institutes of Health
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
- U.S. National Library of Medicine