Oral sedation in dentistry

Incisive Bite

by Sharon Robinson

Sunday, July 08, 2018

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ARE you someone who is anxious or fearful about dental treatment and even worries about it all the time?

Anxiety just melts away

When you are afraid your threshold for pain is much lower, you become hypersensitive to every sensation, prick and noise. Fear and anxiety trigger the release of certain chemicals like adrenalin, which puts your “fight or flight” instincts on high alert. You anticipate that something is going to hurt and so you tense your muscles, even if it is subconsciously.

In this heightened state of anxiety you experience more pain during and even after treatment. However, this response can virtually be eliminated with oral sedation dentistry.

The whole purpose of oral sedation is to make you as comfortable and relaxed as possible. It allows you to let your guard down, relax both your mind and body, and focus on feeling peaceful rather than anxious. Your apprehension and hypersensitivity to pain melt away, yet you remain awake and in control.

Safety and effectiveness

Oral sedation dentistry allows you the confidence and peace of mind to experience dental procedures in a whole new way. Hours seem to pass like mere minutes so that necessary dental treatment can be performed comfortably. When you are relaxed you allow your dentist to be able to work more efficiently by focusing on the work at hand, with the confidence that you are comfortable.

A variety of oral sedative and anxiolytic medications have been developed especially for these purposes. They have been subjected to rigorous research and testing and have a long safety record after decades of use.

What to let your dentist know

It is critical to provide your dentist with a complete health history including:

• Medical conditions for which you are being treated;

• Any and all medications prescribed by a doctor;

• Over-the-counter medications, remedies and vitamins (including aspirin);

• Alternative or herbal supplements;

• Certain foods: Even something as seemingly insignificant as drinking grapefruit juice can have an effect on sedation; also

• Being sure to tell your doctor about factors like smoking and alcohol consumption, since these can influence the effectiveness of sedation medications.

Other forms of sedation dentistry

Inhalation-conscious sedation is also known as nitrous oxide/oxygen sedation. Nitrous oxide, commonly and inappropriately called laughing gas, has been used by dentists for nearly 100 years. It is an excellent analgesic (pain reliever), but a less effective anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) medication.

It is administered through a nasal hood, which is similar to a small cup placed over your nose. Nitrous oxide is extremely safe because it is mixed directly with oxygen to provide you with a feeling of euphoria or light-headedness. All bodily functions remain essentially normal. Though you may experience a tingling sensation from the use of nitrous oxide. However, its effects wear off almost immediately so there is no “hangover effect”.

Intravenous (IV)-conscious sedation, also known as “deep conscious sedation”, is used by some dentists and surgical specialists like oral surgeons and periodontists, who must undertake specialised training and certification in IV use. With this type of sedation, medications are administered directly into the bloodstream intravenously (intra-within, venous-vein). The main advantage of this method is that it works immediately and the level of sedation can be adjusted quickly and easily.

There is a higher degree of risk associated with IV sedation since normal bodily functions, especially heart rate, blood pressure and breathing, can be altered they necessitating specialised monitoring equipment. The drugs used for IV sedation are more potent when given this way than when taken orally, and amnesia may be more profound.

You are not alone

Talk to your dentist about your fears and concerns so that together you can decide on the best treatment for you. It's important to remember that dentistry has come a long way. Years of research have been dedicated to studying and finding methods to alleviate pain and anxiety.

There are safe and time-tested options available to ensure that you have a positive and painless experience. Step out from under the shadow of fear and into the calm of sedation dentistry. You are not alone and you don't have to be afraid anymore.

Dr Sharon Robinson DDS has offices at the Dental Place Cosmetix Spa, located at shop #5, Winchester Business Centre, 15 Hope Road, Kingston 10. Dr Robinson is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Technology, Jamaica, School of Oral Health Sciences. She may be contacted at 630-4710. Like their Facebook page, Dental Place Cosmetix Spa for an opportunity to take advantage of weekly specials.

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