How Does Sedation Dentistry Work?

Nov 17 2014

dental office

For a lot of people, going to the dentist can be an anxious or even fearful experience. The use of sedatives can be necessary to help patients overcome this anxiety by relaxing them during an appointment. Sedation dentistry involves the use of pharmaceutical sedatives to relax patients with severe anxiety or intense fears of the dentist. There are different levels of sedation based on the individual patient and the type of procedure. Here is a brief look at how sedation dentistry works and some of the patient benefits involved in the practice.

Function of Sedation Dentistry

At the most basic level, sedation dentistry functions by depressing the parts of the central nervous system associated with cognitive awareness. This allows anxious and fearful patients to relax during a dental procedure. The types of pharmaceutical drugs used in sedations vary by desired levels of relaxation and correspond to the exact procedure. There are three general levels of sedation: minimal, moderate, and deep, with each related to a different degree of relaxation and cognitive awareness.

A dental surgery, for example, may involve a moderate or deep sedation to maximize the patient’s comfort and peace of mind, even if only a local anesthetic is medically necessary. These sedatives can be administered intravenously, intramuscularly, by inhalation, or through submucosal administration. The exact form of administration and appropriate dosage is determined by the dentist to best suit the needs of the patient and the context of the procedure.

Benefits of Sedation

Sedation dentistry has the potential to benefit both the patient and the dentist during a treatment procedure. Patients who suffer from severe anxiety may be unable to get the dental care they need without the use of sedatives. Of course, the most widely understood use of sedation involves specific circumstances where anesthetizing a patient against discomfort or pain is necessary for a procedure. From a dental professional standpoint, patient sedation can be beneficial towards facilitating patient cooperation and relaxation, controlling gag reflexes, movement control, and reducing the number of appointments to complete a treatment.

For patients, dental procedures can be traumatic or deeply uncomfortable, and sedation can help reduce unpleasant associations with dental work, limit memory of exact procedures, and create a relaxing environment where the patient is totally at ease. Perhaps one of the most tangible benefits to patients with anxiety over dental work is the reduction in the number of visits they have to make to complete a procedure. Repeat visits to conclude a procedure that could be completed in a single visit can unnecessarily prolong an uncomfortable experience for the patient, and can be eliminated with the use of sedation dentistry.

With many dental procedures involving discomfort or potential pain, sedatives are commonly used, but it is useful to keep in mind how dental sedation can also be used to calm the nerves of distressed patients who need dental care, but may otherwise be impeded from getting the quality care needed because of anxiety around dental care.

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