Fear of the dentist is a real thing: Studies have shown that approximately 36% of the population has dental anxiety, or dental fear. An additional 12% suffer from extreme dental fear. These people often put off the dental care they need because of such severe anxiety.
Eventually, dental avoidance can lead to worse oral health. In the worst case, patients may need to see a specialist in oral surgery to fix increasingly complex problems resulting from poor oral health - and this is expensive and undoubtedly even more frightening to people who avoid attending dental appointments!
While we can’t erase dental phobia entirely, we take your concerns seriously at Preston Dental Loft, and offer several options for sedation for our most anxious patients. This helps them relax in the dental chair to get the treatments they need to maintain excellent oral health.
Our options include an inhaled sedative called nitrous oxide and IV sedation. Let’s look at nitrous oxide first.
What is Nitrous Oxide?
You may have heard nitrous oxide called by its other name: “laughing gas.” It is a colorless and odorless gas combined with oxygen and delivered through a mask that you wear over your nose. Once inhaled, your body’s reaction time seems to slow down. You’ll feel calmer. Some people even feel euphoric - hence its nickname!
The dentist can control how much nitrous oxide you receive. You will be monitored to ensure you are tolerating it well. Nitrous oxide is rapidly processed by the body, meaning that it starts to work almost as soon as you inhale it, and it wears off quickly when the mask is removed. This means you’ll likely be able to drive yourself home.
What are the Side Effects of Nitrous Oxide?
Preston Dental Loft takes every precaution when administering any sedation, including laughing gas or nitrous oxide. However, as with any form of sedation, you may experience some side effects.
While most people do not experience side effects, a few report shivering, sweating, dizziness, nausea, or vomiting. Once it wears off, the dental procedure itself may be a little “fuzzy” in your mind - that’s normal. You will be informed of all potential side effects when discussing your sedation options.
Most patients who use nitrous oxide to manage severe dental anxiety are happy with the results. They report feeling more relaxed and calmer in the chair, and they are pleased that they can drive themselves home and go about their day when the dental work is complete.
What is IV Sedation?
Intravenous (IV) sedation is a little more invasive than inhaling nitrous oxide, and it comes with a few more side effects. However, it delivers more potent and long-lasting sedation than nitrous oxide does, so it is suitable for people who have severe anxiety or who need multiple procedures done in one visit.
To start the process, the dentist or a dental anesthetist will insert a thin needle threaded through a thin tube into a vein on your hand or arm. Then the needle is removed, and the line is connected to a cap or other IV tubing to deliver sedative medication directly into the bloodstream.
Because the medication is delivered straight to your bloodstream, it is fast-acting and potent. Your blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen levels will be monitored any time you receive medication via IV.
The medication does not affect your body processes, but it does eliminate the body’s ability to feel pain. You’ll be conscious, breathe, and move on your own, though you may be sluggish. This “conscious sedation” state allows you to communicate with the dentist during your procedures. All in all, this means you’ll be more deeply relaxed. You won’t remember much of the procedure - the sights, smells, or sounds, and you won’t experience the anxiety you would have felt otherwise.
Once you are finished, the IV will be removed. You will still be groggy and will need assistance getting home and tending to your activities for the rest of the day as your body processes the medication.
What are the Side Effects of IV Sedation?
Most patients experience drowsiness and fatigue and feel sluggish and amnesic for hours afterward. As your body processes the medication, your reflexes will return to normal, and you won’t feel so slow anymore. But because sedation dentistry relaxes you so much, it may make you sleepy enough that you have to nap again later. That’s a common side effect.
More severe side effects can include low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, or headaches. Many people experience nausea, so it’s best to avoid food before and for a while after the procedure. The headaches can be caused by contractions in the facial muscles that occur with sedation.
Low blood pressure can become severe in some individuals, which is why it’s crucial for your dentist to monitor your blood pressure when you are receiving IV sedation. If your blood pressure drops too low, you may be given fluids to stabilize it. These will be administered through the same IV where you received your sedation.
I Have Bad Dental Anxiety! Is Sedation Dentistry Right for Me?
At Preston Dental Loft, we want everyone to feel comfortable while they’re at the dentist. We recognize how bad dental phobia can be, and we want to help you say goodbye to your fear and anxiety while you sit in the chair.
Some people do not tolerate certain kinds of sedatives very well, so it’s important that you communicate about your dental anxiety and health history with our team. We’ll help you determine which options will work best for you.
If you’d like a consultation for your next dental appointment, please contact us at your earliest convenience. At Preston Dental Loft, we want to make sure everyone receives the oral healthcare they need while minimizing discomfort, fear, and anxiety.
Simply give us a call at 919-467-6111 to find out if sedation dentistry is an option for you. We look forward to hearing from you!