Many patients delay or put off attending the dentist because they are nervous or afraid. This may be because of a previous bad experience or because of what they have heard about treatment from other people or the media. How many times are expressions like 'as difficult as pulling teeth' or 'as painful as a root canal' used in everyday conversation. It is possible to be worried about dental care and have a fear of dentistry without ever having visited the dentist!
Modern dentistry make these fears unfounded. The techniques, materials and medications should make dental treatment a relatively comfortable experience.
However for many patients, despite these modern advances, fear of dental treatment remains insurmountable. For these patients conscious sedation techniques provide a means to undergo dental treatment comfortably, without their stresses and fears of dental treatment inhibiting them.
What is conscious sedation?
The term conscious sedation refers to a number of techniques that induce an altered state of consciousness that minimizes pain and discomfort through the use of analgesics and sedative agents. Patients who receive conscious sedation usually are able to speak and respond to verbal cues throughout the procedure. A brief period of amnesia may eliminate any memory of the procedure.
Types of Conscious Sedation
Sedation methods utilized in dentistry include oral sedation, inhalation (using nitrous oxide, 'Laughing Gas') sedation and intravenous (IV) sedation. Our practice utilizes all three of these methods.
Oral sedation involves the administration of a sedative medication, usually a tablet, in the surgery 1-2 hours before treatment. The patient is still sedated to a degree after treatment and does not return to normal for a number of hours. Patients are normally escorted home after treatment.
Inhalation sedation involves administration of a gas, nitrous oxide, via a nose piece, prior to treatment. Once treatment is completed the sedative agent is stopped and the patient quickly returns to normal.
Intravenous (IV) sedation involves administration of a drug via an injection, usually into the arm, prior to treatment. The patient is still sedated to a degree after treatment and does not return to normal for a number of hours. Patients are normally escorted home after treatment.
Applications of Conscious Sedation
Conscious sedation can be used during most dental procedures. Some procedures may be more suitable for one method than an other. For example intravenous (IV) sedation may be the most suitable method for surgical procedures such as bone grafts and implant placement while inhalation sedation may be the most suitable for restorative procedures such as tooth preparation for crown fabrication.