Over the years, I’ve learned that there are three things that keep people from coming to the dentist – lack of time, lack of money and fear. The latter is something that we help patients to overcome every day. How, you might ask? Sedation dentistry.
What is sedation dentistry?
Sedation dentistry uses medication to help patients relax during dental procedures. There are several levels of sedation – from minimal sedation, where the patient is awake but relaxed, to general anesthesia, where the patient is unconscious.
In our office, we practice conscious oral sedation. This is a moderate sedation that’s administered orally. The patient is still conscious, but in more of a “twilight state,” or a deeper level of consciousness than normal.
Who is a good candidate?
Sedation dentistry has been found to be extremely beneficial for patients who:
- Have dental anxiety
- Have high blood pressure
- Have trouble getting numb
The biggest benefit for these patients is that the sedative relaxes the sympathetic nervous system. This lowers their heart rate and blood pressure, and thus anxiety. For patients with high blood pressure or heart problems, this makes treatment much safer. It will also require far less local anesthesia to get the patient numb, which can be great for patients who don’t respond well to these numbing agents.
To ensure that a patient is a good candidate for this treatment, we require a health assessment to check for any medical problems. During this assessment, we also determine the sedation dosage.
How does it work?
Conscious oral sedation uses medication, such as Triazolam (which is similar to Valium), to relax patients while they are in the dental chair.
Patients take the first dosage, a low-dose, long-acting sedative, the night before the procedure. This must be taken on an empty stomach, and the patient cannot eat or drink the morning of the procedure. Because of this, we see all sedation dentistry cases first thing in the morning.
When patients arrive at the practice, we give them a shorter-acting dosage that is ground up and placed under the tongue. After allowing 30 to 45 minutes for the sedative to take effect, the dental work begins.
While this sedative does not put patients to sleep, it will alter their sense of time. So a four-hour procedure may be perceived by the patient to be like 30 minutes. Patients will be awake but very relaxed, and still able to respond to verbal commands. This is important, as we will often ask them to turn their head or open and close their mouth during the course of the treatment.
Because the sedative alters the patient’s state of consciousness, we require that someone drive him or her to and from the appointment.
If sedation dentistry sounds like something that may be beneficial to your current dental treatment, call us at (813) 689-4226 to schedule a consultation today.