Statistics show that for one in every three people, visiting the dentist is way too scary to handle. Perhaps it’s because everything is literally right there in their face, from the noisy drills and suction hoses, to the dentist’s glove-covered hands. And those hands are holding things with sharp points which sometimes deliver pain, before they take effect and reduce it. The fear and anxiety this causes means that many people are losing out on essential dental care because they are simply staying away.
But dentistry has changed since our grandparents sat in the chair. And, fortunately, so has dentistry’s approach to dealing with the anxiety and fear it can produce in these patients who suffer from dental phobia.
Reducing fear and anxiety
Dentists now offer oral sedation dentistry to help once-terrified patients relax enough to go through dental procedures without anxiety. And, hopefully, to make them realize that having the essential treatments necessary to protect both their oral and general health, does not have to be that scary. And neither does aesthetic work, which could change their self-image and feelings of confidence, need to be side-lined because of fear.
How is sedation administered
Oral sedation aims at lowering consciousness without causing patients to go to sleep, or be unable to respond to questions or breathe without assistance, like general anaesthesia or deep sedation does. When all that’s needed is to lessen mild anxiety, sedation is swallowed in the form of a pill, or inhaled through a small nose mask. This releases a constant supply on laughing gas (nitrous oxide) which is drawn into the body with every breath. This starts before the treatment, and continues until the end of the procedure.
To help quell higher levels of panic and anxiety, moderate level sedation provides a slightly stronger treatment administered intravenously in most instances, but sometimes injected into the muscles of the thigh or upper arm.In the toughest of situations, where patients’ anxiety levels are too high for them to benefit from these lower levels of sedation, the dentist may resort to using general anaesthesia similar to that used during surgery.
Oral sedation cuts the panic and anxiety levels, but not any pain involved in the treatment. While some sedatives, like nitrous oxide, do raise the pain threshold enough to take the edge off, most do not. This means a local unaesthetic may still need to be injected in the mouth to cut back on the pain produced by the affected tooth as well as the procedure being used to treat it.
Oral sedation dentistry can help those with dental phobia receive the dental care they need, and can also assist those without this phobia, but have a busy lifestyle which precludes multiple visits to the dentist get through several treatments in one go. Speak to your dentist about the benefits of sedation should you fit into either category.