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SedationTherapyCanHelpAnxiousPatientsGettheDentalCareTheyNeed

Dental visit anxiety is a serious problem: Half of all Americans admit to some level of dental fear, while 15% avoid dental care altogether due to acute anxiety. The harm this can cause to dental health is incalculable.

But dentists have a number of sedation techniques that can relax anxious patients and allow them to receive the care they need. Although often used together, sedation is slightly different from anesthesia, which aims to deaden pain sensation. The aim of sedation is to calm the emotions and state of mind.

Sedation isn't a new approach: Physicians have used substances like root herbs or alcohol to relieve anxiety since ancient times. Modern dentistry also has a long history with sedation, dating from the early 1800s with the first use of nitrous oxide gas.

Modern dental sedation has expanded into an array of drugs and techniques to match varying levels of anxiety intensity. At the milder end of the scale are oral sedatives, taken an hour or so before a dental appointment to produce a calmer state. This may be enough for some patients, or it can be used in conjunction with nitrous oxide.

For those with more intense anxiety, dentists can turn to intravenous (IV) sedation. In this case, the sedative is delivered directly into the bloodstream through a small needle or catheter inserted in a vein. This causes a quicker and deeper reaction than oral sedatives.

Although similar to general anesthesia, IV sedation does differ in significant ways. Rather than unconsciousness, IV sedation places a patient in a “semi-awake” state that may still allow them respond to verbal commands. And although the patient's vital signs (heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, etc.) must be monitored, the patient doesn't need breathing assistance as with anesthesia.

There's one other benefit: The drugs used often have an amnesic effect, meaning the patient won't remember the treatment experience after recovery. This can be helpful in creating more pleasant memories of their dental experience, which could have its own sedative effect in the future.

Whether oral, gas or IV, sedatives are a safe and effective way to calm dental fears during treatment. That could help someone with anxiety maintain their oral health.

If you would like more information on reducing dental anxiety, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “IV Sedation in Dentistry.”

SedationCanHelpCreateaMorePositiveDentalExperienceforaChild

You may not be nervous at all about visiting the dentist. But put yourself in a child’s place — a routine dental visit could be an anxious experience for them, and even more so if it involves dental work.

Dental professionals recognize this and go to great lengths to make children’s visits as pleasant as possible. It’s common among pediatric and family dentists to see child-friendly exam rooms and a well-trained staff experienced with interacting with children.

While this helps, some children still struggle with anxiety. Dentists have one other technique that can ease a child’s nervousness: conscious sedation. This technique involves the use of pills, inhaled gas or intravenous drips to help patients relax.

Sedation is different from general anesthesia, which uses drugs to render a patient unconscious so they won’t experience pain. A sedated patient remains in a conscious but relaxed state: they can still breathe independently and, with the most moderate form of oral sedation, be able to respond to touch or verbal instructions.

Oral sedation may also be accompanied by other methods like nitrous oxide gas that also aid with physical discomfort. Many drugs used often have an amnesiac effect — the patient won’t remember details about the procedure, which could contribute to less anxiety in the future.

Typically, a child receives an oral sedative just before the procedure. Most drugs are fast-acting and leave the child’s system quickly afterward. A staff member monitors their vital signs (pulse, respirations, blood pressure, etc.) during the procedure and after in recovery. They’ll remain in recovery until their vital signs return to normal levels and then be able to go home. They should stay home the rest of the day under adult supervision, but should be alert enough the next day to return to their normal activities.

Relieving anxiety is an important tool to ensure your child receives the dental care they need. It also creates a positive experience that could encourage a young patient to continue regular dental care when they reach adulthood.

If you would like more information on conscious sedation for children, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sedation Dentistry for Kids.”

By Robert T Kroepel Jr, DMD
February 14, 2017
Category: Oral Health
Tags: sedation dentistry  
SedationAlongwithUnderstandingcanRelieveYourDentalVisitFears

For most people, going to the dentist is as routine as getting their oil changed. But if you're like the one in ten people with severe anxiety, dental visits are anything but routine.

What may have begun as a childhood fear has turned for many people into a lifetime avoidance of dental care.  This absence of dental cleanings, checkups and treatments can have an adverse effect on not only their oral health but their general health too.

But there are ways you can reduce dental visit anxiety, beginning first with finding a compassionate dental provider. A good dentist-patient relationship is important for everyone, but more so for people with anxiety. Building a trust relationship with a dentist who listens and accepts your fears without judging is your first step to overcoming them.

Though finding an understanding provider is important, it may not be enough in the beginning of your return to regular dental care. To help you further relax during visits, we can also provide medicinal therapies known collectively as sedation.

Although it has some similarities, sedation is different from anesthesia. The latter deadens pain sensation; sedation aims to calm your emotions. The most common sedation is taken in oral form, usually a pill (or syrup for children) taken an hour or so before the appointment. Oral sedation is often used in conjunction with gases like nitrous oxide and local anesthesia.

For a more relaxed state (especially during an involved procedure) we may use intravenous (IV) sedation. With this method we deliver the medication through a small needle or catheter inserted into a vein.

IV sedation places you in a reduced state of consciousness. But it isn't a “sleep” state as what's achieved during general anesthesia, but more of a “semi-awake” state. You won't need assistance with breathing or heart function and you can respond to verbal or touch commands. Many drugs used for IV sedation also have an amnesiac affect, so you won't remember many details about the procedure.

Depending on your level of anxiety, we can match the right therapy to induce calm and relaxation. Sedation can help you see dental visits in a more positive light so that it truly does become a life routine.

If you would like more information on sedation therapy during dental visits, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “IV Sedation in Dentistry.”