Taking good care of your mouth is important for the prevention of serious oral health issues. However, even if you are diligent in your oral care, you brush and floss your teeth every day, different oral health complications can still arise. Issues like tooth decay, cavities, gum disease, chips and fractures, and many more all require professional treatment as soon as possible. If the thought of going to the dentist, even for a routine cleaning and exam, fills you with anxiety or fear, you may avoid going at all costs. Ignoring the needs of your oral health can result in serious consequences. At Susquehanna Oral and Facial Surgery and Dental Implant Center, we can help to make getting the treatments you need easier with sedation.
What is Sedation?
If the idea of going to the dentist for any kind of oral care fills you with a sense of dread, you might do everything you can to avoid going. Ignoring your dental care can lead to serious complications that affect your oral health, your overall health, and your quality of life. Fortunately, we can help with sedation.
Sedation is a treatment that we administer before undergoing certain dental treatments that allow anxious or fearful patients to relax and remain calm and comfortable during necessary procedures. In addition to helping patients who are anxious about getting treatment, sedation can also help in some other situations as well. These include such situations as:
- You have a low tolerance for pain.
- Your teeth are exceptionally sensitive.
- Your gag reflex is easily triggered.
- You find it difficult to sit still.
- You need an extensive amount of dental work or you need several treatments in a single appointment.
Levels of Sedation
There are several levels of sedation available, which allow us to tailor your sedation to your specific needs.
- Minimal sedation. Minimal sedation is the mildest form available. You are still completely conscious, just relaxed.
- Moderate sedation. With moderate sedation, you are conscious but sleepy. This type of sedation is known to produce temporary amnesia, meaning you might not be able to remember parts, or any, of your procedure.
- Deep sedation. Deep sedation is another form of conscious sedation. However, with deep sedation, you are on the brink of being asleep. Some patients may even fall asleep.
- General anesthesia. General anesthesia is the strongest form of sedation. With general anesthesia, you are made to sleep throughout the entire duration of your procedure.
Nitrous oxide is a type of minimal sedation. It is considered the safest form of sedation and is very effective. You are most likely more familiar with nitrous oxide by its other name, laughing gas. This sedative is a colorless, odorless gas that is inhaled through a small mask that is worn over your nose. The gas keeps you completely conscious but puts you in a more relaxed state. You can answer any questions that we ask and respond to any requests. In addition to helping you to feel more at ease, nitrous oxide also works to raise your pain threshold and lower your gag reflex.
Administering nitrous oxide involves placing a small mask over your nose. We then turn on both nitrous oxide as well as oxygen. Both gasses are inhaled. Nitrous oxide goes to work almost immediately, helping you to feel more at ease. Many patients report feeling as though they are in a dream-like state.
You have a majority of the control during treatment with nitrous oxide. To get more gas, you simply breathe in deeper or faster. For less, you breathe slower. As soon as your procedure is complete, the nitrous oxide is shut off, but the oxygen remains on for just a few additional minutes. This helps to ensure that all of the nitrous oxides leaves your system. The gas wears off quickly, and it is completely out of your system by the time you are ready to leave the office. You can even drive yourself home.
There are several benefits to using nitrous oxide. For one, you do not need to worry about taking any medications or having medications delivered through a needle. Nitrous oxide goes to work quickly, and it wears off just as fast. However, nitrous oxide is a minimal form sedation, meaning that it is not very strong. This type of sedation is often recommended for patients who are experiencing only minor anxieties about their dental treatments.
Oral Conscious Sedation
Oral conscious sedation is a type of moderate sedation. This particular sedation is delivered through a medication that you take by mouth. As a form of moderate sedation, it is stronger than nitrous oxide. It is a sedative that causes you to feel sleepy as well as relaxed and comfortable. With this type of sedation, you are provided a prescription for the medication, which you will be directed to take an hour before your scheduled appointment. It typically takes about 30 minutes for the medication to take effect. The exact time varies from patient to patient. For this reason, it is essential that you have someone to drive you to your appointment.
During the course of your treatment, you are closely monitored. Unlike nitrous oxide, the effects of oral conscious sedation can linger for several hours. For this reason, you will need to have a driver to bring you home. Once you get home, it is important to rest and take it easy while the effects of the sedative wear off. Avoid strenuous activities and do not drive anywhere or operate any type of heavy machinery. Once the effects of your sedation wear off, you can begin to resume your normal activities.
Oral conscious sedation is incredibly effective, and it is stronger than nitrous oxide. Moreover, because you take the medication by mouth, you do not need to worry about having any needles inserted into your hand or arm. However, the exact length of time it takes for the medication to begin working is unpredictable, and the effects can linger for several hours. You will be provided with instructions regarding food and liquids before your appointment. Following these instructions is essential for ensuring safety.
IV sedation can be used for moderate sedation as well as deep sedation. This type of sedation is administered through a small needed that is inserted either into the back of your hand or in your arm. Before undergoing IV sedation, you will be provided with specific instructions that you must follow. These instructions will inform you of what to do regarding foods and liquids. For instance, you will be instructed to not eat or drink anything, including water, for at least 6 to 8 hours before your appointment. Most medications can be taken as normal, and a small amount of water is permissible.
When you arrive for your appointment, a small needle is inserted into your arm or back of your hand. This needle is hooked up to IV fluids. When we are ready to begin your procedure, the medication is administered to the IV solution, and it travels directly into your bloodstream. The medication goes to work within seconds, helping you to feel almost instantly relaxed and comfortable. During your procedure, you are monitored closely.
As soon as your procedure is completed, the needle is removed. Much like the effects of oral sedation, the effects of IV sedation can linger for several hours. For this reason, it is important to have someone with you who can take you home. Once you arrive home, it will be important to rest and take it easy while the effects of the sedation wear off. Do not do any heavy lifting or strenuous activities. Do not attempt to drive yourself anywhere. When the effects of your sedation have worn off, you can then begin to resume your normal activities as you feel able.
The major benefit of IV sedation is that the medication takes effect almost immediately. It also avoids the need to remember to take a medication before your procedure as well as avoids the unpredictability of when the medication will take effect. However, the medication does need to be delivered through a needle, and the effects can linger for several hours.
General anesthesia is the strongest form of sedation available, allowing you to sleep throughout the duration of your procedure. Much like IV sedation, it is administered through a needle in your arm or the back of your hand. Again, you will be provided with specific instructions regarding food and drink before your procedure. Just like IV sedation, it is important that you avoid eating or drinking anything at least 6 to 8 hours before your appointment. This is essential for your safety during treatment. General anesthesia is often only recommended in certain situations.
When you arrive for your appointment, a needle is placed in your arm or hand. It is attached to IV fluids. When ready, the medication is administered and enters your bloodstream. Like other forms of IV sedation, the medication takes effect almost instantly. This medication, however, puts you to sleep. You are monitored closely throughout the entire procedure, and the sedation is adjusted as needed.
Once your procedure is complete, another medication is administered through the IV fluids to wake you up. Again, the effects of general anesthesia can last for several hours. It is important that you have someone with you who can take you home to rest while its effects wear off.
Just like with other IV sedatives, general anesthesia takes effect almost immediately. It also causes you to sleep throughout your procedure so that you will remember nothing of it. However, the medication does need to be administered through a needle, and the effects can last for several hours.
Is Sedation Safe?
Many patients are concerned about the safety of sedation and are wary about receiving it. Sedation is generally considered to be a safe treatment that allows us to provide you with the effective oral care that you need. We are highly trained and experienced in administering sedation. During your entire procedure, you are closely monitored. We keep track of your breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, and more. We can adjust your sedation as needed and take all necessary measures to keep you safe while you are sedated.
While sedation is considered to be safe, there are a few things that we will need to know before recommending it for your dental care needs. It is important that you tell us things such as:
- Medical conditions you are currently receiving treatment for.
- Any medications you are taking. This includes prescription medications, over the counter medications, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies.
- Any allergies that you have.
- If you are a smoker or you consume alcohol.
It is also important to note that you should avoid eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice, for at least 72 hours before as well as after your scheduled appointment. Grapefruit contains an enzyme that can interfere with the ability of your body to break down the sedatives in your body.
No matter if you need a simple cleaning and exam or a more complex procedure, getting dental care when you need it is essential for maintaining the health of your mouth. If the thought of getting any type of dental care fills you with dread, sedation may be the right solution. For more information on sedation, and to find out what options are right for you, call Susquehanna Oral and Facial Surgery and Dental Implant Center at (570) 323-1900 today.