Conscious sedation dentistry can provide anxious patients with immediate relief during their dental treatment. A less-known added benefit of conscious sedation is that it can also improve their feelings around dental treatment in the long run. By helping to form positive associations with visiting the dental practice, conscious sedation dentistry can improve symptoms of dental anxiety and a patient’s overall relationship with dental visits.

 

What is conscious sedation dentistry?

Conscious sedation dentistry is generally used for patients who experience intense dental anxiety before dental procedures such as a root canal treatment, dental fillings, or routine cleanings.

Also referred to as sleep dentistry or “happy gas”, conscious sedation dentistry is typically administered either in the form of nitrous oxide inhalation or a tablet containing a drug such as diazepam or triazolam. Nitrous oxide is administered through a facial mask.

Some dentists also use IV moderate sedation, where a sedation drug is administered intravenously and carefully monitored by your dentist and their staff. This is also sometimes used in combination with nitrous oxide treatments to keep the patient comfortable.

 

What is dental anxiety?

Dental anxiety, or dental phobia, is a common occurrence. Patients may experience intense dread before visiting the dentist or have trouble sleeping the night before. There are many techniques to help minimise dental anxiety. Patients can share their concerns with the dentist, book appointments earlier in the day to prevent rumination on the event, and, of course, seek conscious sedation dentistry.

 

What does conscious sedation dentistry feel like? 

Exactly how your conscious sedation dentistry experience will feel depends largely on the type of medication that is used. It also differs from individual to individual.

If you and your dentist decide to use nitrous oxide inhalation, negative emotions will start to disappear. You may feel a tingling sensation or heaviness in your arms or legs, and many users report feeling light-headedness coupled with a sense of euphoria and slowed reactions. You may also start laughing without cause; nitrous oxide got the nick-names of “laughing gas” or “happy gas” for good reason.

Nitrous oxide is one of the most popular choices for dental sedation due to how well it is tolerated and how quickly its effects can be reversed. However, some individuals may find that it upsets their stomach and prefer orally-ingested sedatives which have similar, relaxing effects.

If your dentist uses IV moderate sedation or a combination of IV and nitrous oxide, you will need at least an hour after your procedure for the feeling of lightheadedness to subside. Many dentists and oral surgeons have comfortable recovery rooms for just this purpose. Even if the sedation wears off, it might still be present in your bloodstream.

For this reason, you will need someone to accompany you to your treatment, and take you home, just as a precaution.

How is conscious sedation dentistry conducted?

There are several steps in the conscious sedation dentistry process. First, you will lie back in the dentist’s chair. You can ask your dentist any questions you may have and discuss what to expect.

Next, you will receive your sedative, either in the form of nitrous oxide, tablet, or IV. Some dentists prescribe a small dosage of lorazepam in combination with their conscious sedation treatment to reduce a patient’s anxiety and help them feel calm.

At this point, you will wait until the sedatives take effect. Oral sedatives take anywhere from a half-hour to an hour to metabolise, while nitrous oxide takes very little time at all. IV sedation usually takes about 10-20 minutes to take effect.

Throughout this whole process, your dentist and their team will monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, and your breathing in order to give you the safest possible experience. Your dentist will begin your treatment procedure only after the sedatives have taken effect.

 

Are there any side effects to conscious sedation dentistry?

While conscious sedation dentistry is generally regarded as a safe, effective, and common procedure, there are possible side effects to any medical or dental treatment. Unlike general anaesthesia, the risks are less, and complications are rare.

Most side effects wear off within an hour or two after your procedure, but some can persist for up to 24 hours. These side effects include:

  • Sluggish or heavy movements and thoughts
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Amnesia or scattered memories about the procedure
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Dizziness when standing quickly

If a patient has serious pre-existing medical conditions, they are at a higher risk of developing complications from the conscious sedation. Your dentist will consider which method of conscious sedation is safest for you after reviewing your full medical history and potential allergies.

 

Final thoughts

Conscious sedation dentistry is an important tool you can use to make sure you maintain good oral health and get the procedures you want and need for your smile. Call Dentistry on Solent today on (02) 9158 6137 and talk to us about our conscious sedation options.

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