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What Is Sedation Dentistry? A Breakdown From a Hermitage, TN, Dentist

What Is Sedation Dentistry? A Breakdown From a Hermitage, TN, Dentist

What Is Sedation Dentistry? A Breakdown From a Hermitage, TN, Dentist
Dr. Jones
April 5, 2024

Upwards of 8 out of 10 U.S. adults have some level of dental anxiety. In a study released by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, 24.3% of the respondents reported fearing the dentist, and 20% let that fear keep them from regularly seeing a dentist. Worse, upwards of 15% don’t go to the dentist at all.

What makes people so fearful of a dental visit? The most common reason was past negative experiences. After that, the reasons given included:

  • Uncertainty about the overall experience during a cleaning and exam
  • Cost of dental care and required treatments
  • Easily set off gag reflex
  • Worrying about getting bad news

Avoiding dental care isn’t the answer. It might be the only way you can think of handling the anxiety, but it can lead to additional health concerns. It’s time to take a closer look at why sedation dentistry is the ideal solution.

Health Issues That Are Tied to Poor Oral Health

Tooth decay is one of the best-known causes of poor oral health. When the tooth enamel breaks down, it opens the softened dentin up to attacks by bacteria that feed on the sugars in foods you eat. This leads to cavities that can cause abscesses. An abscess is an infection that can spread to the bloodstream and cause serious illness.

Here’s an alarming fact, 25% of adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have at least one untreated cavity. Left untreated, one out of four adults could end up with a severe infection putting their life at risk.

Gum disease also affects 25% of adults, and it’s easier to treat when caught early through a quick test of the gap between the gums and the teeth. People with diabetes or a weakened immune system, smokers and tobacco users, and those who don’t regularly see a dentist have a higher risk of advanced gum disease that could lead to jaw bone and tooth loss.

Oral cancer affected about 45,000 people in 2016. During a dental exam, oral cancer checks are routine. If caught early, the survival rate is higher.

Those are a few of them, and there are others where studies are ongoing. These studies are looking for definitive links between chronic health conditions like Alzheimer’s, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, and poor oral care. In some studies, tooth decay and gum disease incidences are higher in patients with these conditions. 

Skipping routine dental cleanings and exams is the worst thing you could do for your health, but anxiety isn’t fun either. If your dental anxiety is so extreme that it triggers panic attacks, they feel even worse and make it hard to sit through a dental exam as your heart races, you feel clammy, your feet and hands tingle, and you cannot sit still.

When you need to see a dentist regularly, but anxiety makes it impossible, sedation dentistry is the best option. But what is it?

Sedation Dentistry Explained

Sedation dentistry occurs when a mild sedative is used to help you relax before the dental cleaning and exam begin. Sedation dentistry is also used if you need a filling, root canal, or other advanced dental treatment. Instead of going to sleep, you’re given just enough medicine to relax and feel at ease during the procedure.

With sedation dentistry, you’re awake and aware the entire time, but your anxiety melts away. Sedation dentistry is a great option for people with dental anxiety, a fear of needles, or a strong gag reflex.

The medications used in sedation dentistry differ. Some dentists use nitrous oxide, which you may know better as laughing gas. A mask is placed over your face and you start to feel calm in a matter of minutes. Once complete, you need oxygen treatments to rid your body of remaining nitrous oxide. Some of the risks with nitrous oxide are:

  • Agitation
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting, especially if the patient has an empty stomach

It’s more likely that your dentist uses oral conscious sedation. This is the option offered at Hermitage, TN’s dental practice Jody Jones DDS.

With oral conscious sedation, a medication like diazepam, lorazepam, triazolam, or zaleplon is administered about an hour before your appointment. It can make you feel sleepy, and some patients do become so relaxed that they sleep, but you’re in a very light sleep and a gentle tap of your shoulder is enough to wake you up so that you can talk to your dentist when needed.

As the medication takes time to wear off, it’s required that someone is with you to drive you home after the procedure. You might want to have someone stay with you for a few hours to make sure you don’t fall when trying to get up and down stairs. Common short-term side effects of these sedatives include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Short-term memory loss

Some patients have sensitivities to these medications that might add side effects like depression, hallucinations, or mood swings. There are also medications and herbal supplements that should not be used when you’re taking a sedative. For example, triazolam can affect the birth control pills a woman takes.

The final option, which is less commonly used, is an IV sedative. As the medications go directly to your bloodstream, an IV line has to be placed. You also have to have monitors in place to check your oxygen levels, heart rate, and blood pressure. 

Be Honest With Your Hermitage Dentist

If you’re scared of going to the dentist, be honest about it. You’d be surprised by just how common it is. Dentists are not shocked to hear you find the idea of coming in for x-rays, cleanings, and exams frightening. You’re not going to be the first person to tell them this.

Because a dental practice has plenty of experience with dental anxiety, you don’t have to be ashamed. Sedation dentistry is there to help you improve your oral health and make it easier to handle dental appointments and treatments. 

Dr. Jody Jones specializes in sedation dentistry using oral conscious sedation. We use just enough medicine to relax you, but you’ll be back to normal after the procedure. You still do need someone to drive you home, however, for your safety. 

In addition to standard cleanings and exams, you can have sedation dentistry for restorative dental treatments like dental implants. Root canals, crowns, and fillings are other dental treatments that you can have with sedation dentistry. 

There’s one more thing we feel it’s important to know. As you get to know the hygienists and dentists at Jody Jones DDS, some of our patients find the fear diminishes and they can get through appointments without needing medications. Our goal is to create a comfortable, stress-free experience.