Sedation dentistry is used in conjunction with anesthetic to make dental work more pleasant. It reduces discomfort and anxiety, especially with major surgeries like root canals.

Sedation Dentistry

Why People Choose Sedation

Even with local anesthetic, dental work may cause pressure and discomfort. Even though pain nerves are turned off, deeper pressure nerves can still be heavily activated by drilling. With serious procedures like root canals, nearby pain nerves can also hurt.

Certain patients have other issues. Some patients may have trouble with:

  • The sensation of dental tools scraping on their teeth
  • The strain of holding their jaw open for long periods of time
  • The gag reflex caused by dental tools near the back of the throat
  • Holding still or suppressing a tremor reflex

Other than those causes, many people also struggle with fear, anxiety, or outright phobias.

Sedation can help with all of these problems and more.

Effects of Sedation

The most common form of sedation in dentistry is nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is a light sedative that induces a euphoric state. In a euphoric state, worries, pains, and physical discomfort feel minor or simply melt away.

Nitrous oxide also functions as a weak general anesthetic, decreasing pain and sensitivity over the whole body.

Unlike stronger general anesthetics, nitrous oxide does not greatly depress lung activity, and thus does not require the use of a respirator.

Nitrous oxide clears out of the system quickly. Impairment generally only lasts about 15 minutes after you stop breathing the gas. If you experience negative side effects, your dentist will immediately give you high-oxygen air to breathe, which should make you more alert and help you sober up.

In some individuals, nitrous oxide is habit-forming. Recovering alcoholics and drug addicts should avoid its use.

Heavier Sedation

Some people cannot use nitrous oxide due to allergies or pre-existing health conditions. Others find the effects of nitrous oxide uncomfortable, causing even more anxiety. Fortunately, alternative oral sedatives exist for dental sedation.

The most typical oral sedative is Halcion, a drug in the same class as Valium. Halcion is primarily used to cure insomnia, but has the side effect of creating feelings of happiness, calmness, and depersonalization.

Under the influence of Halcion, you will feel injections or dental tools, but you very likely will not care. Some people also fail to form memories while on Halcion, which can be an added benefit if you find visits to the dentist office traumatic.

Halcion may impair your motor functions for up to eight hours. Be sure that you have someone to drive you home.

Sedatives and Safety

Dentists are trained in the proper use and dosage of sedatives. Neither nitrous oxide nor Halcion carries any serious risks. Dosages for both are carefully controlled, making an overdose virtually impossible.

If the thought of your next dental work seems hard to bear, just remember that you can always use sedatives to make the process a breeze.