Visit the Dentist with No Fear – What is Sedation Dentistry?


Even if you ask the best dentist in Florida, you’ll probably hear a few stories about patients that can’t relax in their dentist chairs. The Journal of Dental Hygiene notes that between 50% – 80% of adults in the United States demonstrate moderate to severe dental anxiety. For many people, the choice of going to a dentist is a constant battle between the pain in their mouths and their fear of the office. Recently, there have been a few advances in dentistry that have changed how patients look at their dental visits. Sedation dentistry comes to mind as one of the ways that dentists can handle patients that display an overwhelming amount of anxiety. In this article, we’ll explore the details of sedation dentistry, and how it’s used by dental professionals.

What Is Sedation Dentistry Exactly?

Sedation dentistry, also called “sleep dentistry,” is a methodology used to help patients relax. By using specific chemicals to induce sleepiness, sedation dentistry calms the client’s nerves to make them more responsive. The American Dental Association (ADA) recognizes several different levels of sedation, including:

  • Minimal Sedation: This technique allows you to remain alert, yet relaxed. Your breathing and blood flow are unaffected, but you may be moderately impaired when it comes to coordination and deep thinking.
  • Moderate/Conscious Sedation: This method puts you deeper into sedation, and you may respond purposefully to verbal commands the doctor gives. Your speech is likely to be slurred, and you might not remember a lot about the procedure.
  • Deep Sedation: At this point, you’re just at the edge of consciousness. The professional can bring you out of it through repeated stimulation, but it’s not easy to wake you up. You might require a bit of help to maintain your airflow.
  • General Anesthesia: This level of sedation renders you completely unconscious. You can’t detect anything going on around you, and you’re usually going to need machines to keep you breathing and your blood pumping.

How Sedation in Dentistry is Delivered

Any dentist in Florida will tell you that delivering sedatives to a patient requires a lot of care. The methodologies used to sedate patients may differ. Some of the more common methods of delivery are:

  • Oral Sedation: Patients can take pills such as Halcion or a derivative, to bring about relaxation. The medicine is likely to bring about drowsiness, but you’ll still be mostly awake. Dosages may vary, depending on the depth of sedation the doctor intends to achieve.
  • Inhaled Minimal Sedation: Nitrous Oxide (also known as “laughing gas”) mixed with oxygen is the chemical that brings about sedation. Patients usually use a mask that combines the nitrous oxide along with oxygen. The dentist controls the amount of gas used, and the effects wear off quickly.
  • Intravenous (IV) Moderate Sedation: As it suggests, IV medication is injected directly into a vein. It acts very quickly since it doesn’t have to go through other body processes but is inserted directly into the bloodstream. This method of delivery also offers a lot more control concerning the amount of the drug used. Professionals can adjust the volume of sedative dynamically.
  • Deep Sedation/ General Anesthesia: The drugs used in this case will render you unconscious and are usually administered by an anesthesiologist instead of a dentist. You will remain unconscious until the effects of the drugs wear off, which varies depending on the medication used and your body’s response.

In addition to sedatives, dentists use a local anesthetic to minimize the pain that a patient may feel at their procedure.

Can Anyone Have Sedation Done?

Sedation dentistry came about as a response to the number of patients that displayed an aversion to dental visits. Even a dentist in Florida is likely to see a lot of patients that suffer from acute anxiety from their visits to the office. However, sedation dentistry isn’t limited to those patients. Additionally, other patients may benefit from this method of dentistry. Among the most common use cases for using sedation dentistry are:

  • Fidgety patients: clients who can’t seem to relax or sit still in the dentist’s chair may benefit from mild sedation.
  • Low tolerance for pain: If a patient has a low tolerance for pain, then the slightest thing may bring their great distress. Mild sedation is also an option in this case.
  • Sensitive teeth: The pain from a dentist dealing with sensitive teeth may be too much for a client to bear. Mild to moderate sedation is a valid option here as well.
  • Have a massive amount of dental work to do: Some clients that need to remain in the chair for the duration of a lengthy procedure can benefit from sedation. Not only do they relax, but the dentist doesn’t have to worry about them becoming agitated before the end of the procedure.

There are other use cases for sedation. Sometimes a dentist in Florida might consider using sedation on a child who is uncooperative or anxious about the visit. In such a case, the typical method of delivery is through minimal inhaled sedation using nitrous oxide. Fewer pediatric dentists opt for oral sedation instead. It comes down to the dentist’s preference, but both of these methods are safe for use with kids.

Is Dental Sedation Safe?

If properly administered, dental sedation can be a useful tool for dentists. Some states require dentists to hold a permit before they can deliver any sedation to clients. Most dentists can administer mild to moderate dental sedation. However, once you get to the higher levels of sedation, things can get a bit hazy. Only the professionals who are certified by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) can perform deep sedation or general anesthetic procedures. Dentists who want to use these procedures, but aren’t qualified to do so, always have the option of calling in an anesthesiologist.

What You Need To Know:

While sedation is relatively safe, there are situations where dentists should be careful in using those techniques. If a patient is obese or has sleep apnea, then sedation might lead to complications. As a smart patient, you should be aware of a few factors before deciding to opt for sedation with your dentist:

  • Check the dentist’s credentials. Depending on the type of sedation, you may want to verify your dentist’s credentials and that they’re qualified to perform the procedure.
  • Answer the dentist’s questions truthfully. Dentists looking at sedation for their patients are likely to ask a few questions including current medication and family medical history. It is best if you answer those questions as accurately as you can.
  • Ask about the dosage of the medicine you’re being given. Find out from your dentist how much is the recommended dosage for your age and health. You might also want to verify that it falls within what the FDA suggests.
  • You should be hooked into machines to monitor your vital signs during the procedure. Sedation isn’t perfect, and a professional should monitor your state with a glance at a device.
  • Read the form and understand it. Most dentists provide their patients with a form detailing the procedure and the risks involved. Feel free to ask your dentist about anything you don’t understand and let them explain those details to you.

A Dental Visit With No Fear?

If you’re an anxious dental client, it might be time you asked your dentist about sedation dentistry. At Anderson Dental, we provide advice on any number of dental procedures and are always welcome to meet new clients. If you want somewhere, you can discuss things like this, or are looking for a new dentist to put you at ease, our doors are always open. Contact us today to schedule your next appointment. You don’t have to be anxious about it. We’ll guide you through the procedure every step of the way. Give us a call now!