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Sedation Dentistry

What Is Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation dentistry uses medication to help patients relax during dental procedures. It's sometimes referred to as "sleep dentistry," although that's not entirely accurate, since patients can still respond to us and more importantly, maintain your reflexes meant to keep you safe. Providing dentistry to people who have been too fearful in the past to see a dentist has been another very satisfying experience. Often those who were nearly too nervous to sit in the chair have become “dental converts” and later tell me they no longer need any sedation and feel totally comfortable seeing us.

The levels of sedation used include:
  • Minimal sedation -- you are awake but relaxed.
  • Inhaled minimal sedation (not currently offered) -- You breathe nitrous oxide -- otherwise known as "laughing gas" -- combined with oxygen through a mask that's placed over your nose. Your dentist can control the amount of sedation you receive, and the gas tends to wear off quickly. You may be able to drive yourself home with this form of sedation.
  • Oral sedation -- Oral sedation is another option for dental sedation. Oral sedation is received through taking a pill, such as valium or Halcion, providing an effective sedation without the use of needles. Oral sedation is also a cost-effective alternative to IV sedation. Oral sedation is used to reduce the feelings of anxiety sometimes associated with a dental appointment. Most patients will still remain aware of their surroundings but will be less responsive to stimuli such as smells and sounds. Another benefit of oral sedation is that it is suitable for a very wide variety of patients, with many options for the sedation to make the patient as comfortable as possible.
  • IV moderate sedation -- IV sedation is received through a vein and works quickly after injection. This method allows us to continually adjust the level of sedation or provide reversal agents that have an immediate effect. For this reason, this form of sedation is safer than using pills to achieve moderate sedation. You will remain conscious during IV sedation, and you will be able to understand and respond to requests from your dentist, but you probably won’t remember anything from the procedure after it occurs. IV sedation induces a state of deep relaxation. The drugs used in IV sedation produce full or partial memory loss for the period of time when the drug kicks in until it wears off. As a result, time will seem to pass very quickly, almost as if you were asleep during the procedure.
Who Can Have Sedation at the Dentist's?

Sedation is most appropriate for people with a real fear or anxiety that is preventing them from going to the dentist.

Sedation dentistry may also be appropriate for people who:

  • Have a fear or anxiety that would prevent them from receiving dental care
  • Have a low pain threshold
  • Can't sit still in the dentist's chair
  • Have very sensitive teeth
  • Have a bad gag reflex
  • Heed a large amount of dental work completed
Can Any Dentist Perform Sedation?

No. Many dentists offering “sleep dentistry” are only permitted to use pills, lacking the proper training for IV sedation. Pills are a nice way to achieve minimal sedation, but lack an immediate route for administration of reversal and emergency drugs. That is why we only recommend IV sedation for patients that need a deeper level of sedation. While many dentists use laughing gas, in order to provide the deeper levels of sedation that many people desire for their procedures, special training, usually in a hospital setting, must be completed after dental school. Dr. Halls received extensive post-graduate training working in operating rooms under the direction of anesthesiologists and oral surgeons while in the Air Force. Combined with annual continuing education, ACLS re-certification, and other requirements to maintain an anesthesia certificate, this training allows us to ensure a safe environment.

How Safe Is Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation dentistry is very safe, and in many cases safer than no sedation at all, since the reduced anxiety can put less stress on your body. However, there is always a risk in getting anesthesia. That is why we always have a pre-sedation consultation. During this appointment, Dr. Halls will thoroughly review your health history, medications you may be taking, and perform a brief physical examination to evaluate your airway and listen to your heart and lungs. Any concerns will be discussed, as well as instructions for you on what to expect during your appointment.

Special items to discuss if you are considering sedation include sleep apnea, whether you use a CPAP or bi-PAP machine, any respiratory problems you have, or use of narcotics or mood-altering drugs, prescribed or not. Your safety is our chief concern.

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