Does the thought of having your mouth being examined make your entire body tense? Would you rather endure the agony of a toothache than step foot in a dental office? Do your mouth and teeth suffer from years of neglect and cause you to be self-conscious? You’re not alone. Many of our new patients come to our office wanting a fresh start on their oral health that fear and anxiety have dictated for too long.
This is why Alder Family Dental is proud to offer several options in sedation dentistry. Sedation dentistry uses medication to help address anxiety that can prevent patients from taking the next step to improve their oral health. In addition, sedation can make a long appointment pass in what seems like just a matter of minutes. It is sometimes referred to as ‘sleep dentistry’, although this is not entirely accurate. Patients are typically awake with the exception of those under general anesthesia, which is not offered at our office. Sedation dentistry can be used for everything from invasive procedures to a simple cleaning and exam, depending on the anxiety level of the individual patient. For your wellbeing, our Doctors will be doing a comprehensive medical evaluation and need to be made aware of all medical diagnosis, disease, and medications to ensure you are a candidate for sedation.
All of our Doctors at Alder Family Dental are certified in the DOCS oral sedation protocol (DOCS), proven to be safe and effective in the dental setting. The levels of sedation used at our office include:
• Minimal sedation- you are awake but relaxed, typically provided with nitrous oxide or minimal anxiolytic medication
• Moderate sedation- also referred to as ‘sleep dentistry’ or ‘conscious sedation’; the patient may slur words when speaking and typically does not remember much of the procedure. This is typically provided with a cocktail of anxiolytic medication and many patients do indeed think they napped for the majority of their dental treatment.
Types of Sedation
Nitrous oxide: nitrous oxide combined with oxygen, also known as laughing gas, has been used as an anxiolytic in dentistry for over 150 years. It is easy to use, fast acting, and tends to wear off quickly at the end of the procedure. The patient has a mask placed over their nose and simply breathes the gas in, which is titrated by the dentist to the proper sedation level. Within a few minutes, patients typically begin to feel the calming effects of this medication, which also is known to help with pain and induce a feeling of pleasure or euphoria. You may feel light-headed, floaty, or a tingling in your arms and legs. This is the only form of sedation that allows for the patient to drive themselves to and from the dental appointment.
With oral sedation, the patient takes anxiolytic medication to give sedative effects. Depending on the dose and type given, oral sedation levels can range from minimal to moderate. For minimal sedation, a pill is taken about an hour before the dental procedure. The pill typically makes the patient drowsy and relaxed, although they are still awake and able to remember the dental appointment and procedure. To achieve moderate sedation, a pill is taken at bedtime, the night before the dental appointment to allow for a good night’s sleep. The sedation appointment is scheduled first thing in the morning for best results. A different type of pill is taken an hour before the dental appointment in the morning, and then the first hour of the appointment is set aside for administration of additional medication under the tongue until moderate sedation levels are achieved. This is the type of anesthesia most commonly associated with sedation dentistry. Many patients become groggy enough to fall asleep during the dental treatment, however, they are able to be awakened with a gentle shake. Vital signs are monitored with our state-of-the-art Pulse Oximeter during the entire appointment.
Regardless of which type of sedation you receive, you'll also typically need a local anesthetic to ‘put the tooth to sleep’ and prevent pain during treatment. Our dentists use a topical numbing agent prior to ‘the shot’, and most patients are surprised at how painless the injection can be in comparison to what they have experienced in the past.
For more information about sedation dentistry at Alder Family Dental, and how we can safely and effectively use this tool to return your mouth to health, please contact our office today!