When we hear the term sedation, many of us conjure up images of semi-conscious patients who are not aware of their surroundings. Although there are different levels of sedation available to patients in the medical and dental fields, mild to moderate sedation is of great assistance to those who require dental procedures but are too fearful to attend the appointment. There is no shame in fear of the dentist, in fact it is common among both adults and children.
The reasons for having an anxious reaction to the dentist are many. While some fears may be innate or due to a lack of patient-client rapport, much of anxiety can be explained by claustrophobic response, sensory concerns, or previous traumatic experiences in which the patient did not feel heard or respected. Although there is little we can do to alleviate the emotional impact of previous experiences with other practitioners, we can do quite a bit in the way of taking time to make you feel heard and respected. We pride ourselves on our ability to partner with our patients in their oral health and meet the where they are at.
In some cases, patients may arrive for a dental checkup and find out that they require a procedure that day. This can take patients understandably by surprise and incite anxiety. Other times, patients are aware that their anxiety may test their ability to stay calm and still during the procedure. In these cases, oral sedation can make procedures flow smoothly for our patients.
We offer two forms of oral sedation, both of which have long histories of safe use. Sedation may come in the form of an oral medication or a gas. Oral medications offered to reduce anxiety are benzodiazepines, medical tranquilizers. Benzodiazepines are what is known as CNS (Central Nervous System) Suppressants. This kind of drug is used for its sedative and calming effects on the nervous system. They induce a degree of sleepiness, and patients may find themselves nodding off during their procedure, but this is not because they are unconscious – the patient stays conscious, responsive and able to communicate with the dental team about what they are feeling. These medications are only appropriate for use when there is a caregiver or chauffer present to escort the patient home following the procedure. Grogginess and mild disorientation caused by the sedative lasts a number of hours so patients should not drive a motor vehicle or be alone getting home.
Patients who are unaccompanied or who do not want a sedating effect to persist after their appointment still have options to assist them in coping with their dental anxiety. Nitrous oxide is a clear gas with a slightly sweet smell which can be mixed with oxygen and delivered to the patient via an oxygen mask. Nitrous oxide is a favourite of many adults and children for its calming and pain killing properties. This gas begins to show its sedative properties quickly after breathing it and it can be dosed and re-dosed throughout the procedure under the guidance of a dental care team. Although the gas does not itself possess enough pain killing properties to be used alone, it is of great assistance when used in combination with a local anesthetic. Nitrous oxide (or laughing gas) is practical for those who need to return to work or other commitments following their procedure, since the effects of the gas dissipate in just a few minutes after inhalation is stopped, and it has no residual effect on the lungs or other major organs.
Did you know that your baby can begin seeing the dentist as soon as their first tooth erupts? Although there may not be any procedures required for such young children, we encourage parents to start bringing their children into the office with them from the time that they can walk, to get familiar with the environment. Clinical environments such as dental offices can be intimidating for small children. Bright lights, the noise of tools and the smell of astringents can seem foreign to a child. Children who have never been to the dentist before can be understandably overwhelmed if their first visit requires a procedure. For this reason, we encourage kids to come in for a tour, and to meet the team! We always look forward to meeting little ones, and we love to provide them the kind of experience that will have them looking forward to the dentist. We want to see them every six months to give them one more high five for a cavity-free mouth! If you have questions about this or other services offered by our general dentist, contact our clinic today!