sedation dentist


Does the thought of visiting the dentist fill you with dread? Do you actively avoid booking dental appointments until your problem is so severe that you cannot avoid seeking professional help any longer? If so, you aren’t alone. Fear of the dentist is a very real issue for many people. In fact, some studies estimate that as many as 75% of adults in the U.S. have some degree of anxiety with regards to visiting a dentist, and as those, around 10% experience enough fear to be considered suffering from dental phobia.


Unfortunately, serious anxiety about dental appointments adversely affects the oral health of those who experience it. By delaying diagnosis and treatment, often by the time help is sought the patient has suffered chronic dental pain and other issues that could have been avoided. Many dental problems can be avoided entirely by attending regular appointments with your dentist. Fortunately, there is a way that enables even the most anxious or fearful patient to tolerate dental appointments. It is a service known as sedation dentistry.


What is sedation dentistry?

Sedation dentistry is the name given to the use of sedative drugs ahead of and during dental appointments so that the patient is calm and relaxed enough to tolerate whatever treatment is needed. It is not to be confused with anesthetic, which is given in addition to sedatives to ensure that patients are neither highly stressed nor in pain during the procedure.


There are different degrees of sedation available, and as a general rule, patients are offered the lowest level of sedation suitable for the type of procedure the patient requires. For example, it is extremely rare for a patient to be heavily sedated for a simple filling, but light sedation is unlikely to be sufficient for a very invasive dental procedure such as root canal therapy.


Light sedation is usually administered in the form of nitrous oxide aka laughing gas. The effects are instant the moment you inhale the gas, and fade within a minute or two of the gas is removed. While you are under this form of sedation you will still be fully aware of what is happening around you, but you will feel euphoric and unconcerned.


Moderation sedation is delivered via a pill that is taken orally an hour or so before your appointment. You will still have some awareness of what is going on, but much less than with nitrous oxide. You will feel calm, relaxed and totally at ease. It can take a number of hours for the sedative to wear off, and you should arrange for someone else to drive you home after your appointment.


Heavy sedation is administered intravenously via a catheter placed into your hand. You will be placed on the edge of consciousness and have very little awareness of your surroundings. You will also have little or no memory of the procedure afterward. As with moderation sedation, the effects of IV sedation can last some time and you will need someone to take you home and stay with you after your appointment.


Sedation dentistry for patients with disabilities

Sedation dentistry isn’t just for patients who are scared of the dentist. People with disabilities also struggle to tolerate dental appointments. This can be for any number of reasons, including:

  • A physical or cognitive inability to sit still

  • A physical or cognitive inability to follow instructions

  • An issue with holding their mouth or jaw opening

  • Difficulty swallowing


Not all disabilities that make dental appointments difficult are physical, some are related to cognitive ability. For example, children with attention hyperactivity disorder may be unable to sit still – something which is needed for dental treatments to be safe and accurate.


If your dental health is suffering as a result of fear of the dentist, or you or a loved one aren’t receiving the dental care you need due to a disability, sedation dentistry can help. Please contact our experienced and reassuring dental team at our dentistry and implant center in Chelsea, AL today by calling 205-224-0040.