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Sedation

A significant number of Americans do not visit the dentist for regular checkups because they are too fearful or suffer from dental anxiety.  Sedation dentistry offers an excellent way to provide a safe, anxiety-free, dental experience to those who are afraid of the dentist.

Sedation dentistry is often mistakenly thought to induce sleep.  In fact, most sedatives allow the patient to stay awake during the procedure.  Sleepiness is a side effect of some medications, but oral conscious sedation and IV sedation only work to calm anxiety throughout the dental visit.

Sedation dentistry is popular because most sedatives can be taken by mouth, meaning no injections, no anxiety and no pain.  However, at times, there are situations in which an individual patient's needs require them to be sedated using an IV or by using general anesthesia in an operating room environment. Some sedatives work so effectively that even the smells and details of the procedure cannot be recalled afterwards.  Safety and compliance are two important aspects of treatments, so sedation dentistry offers both the individual and the dentist the best alternative.

Whatever the form of sedative, it is essential to be accompanied by a caregiver with a valid driver's license due to the fact that the sedation that our office provides renders the patient in a condition in which they are unable to drive themselves home.

Here are some advantages associated with sedation dentistry:

  • Anxiety is alleviated.
  • Few side effects.
  • More can be accomplished during each visit.
  • No needles.
  • No pain.
  • Perfectly safe.
  • Procedures seem to take less time.

What kinds of sedatives are available?

The most popular types of dental sedatives are oral conscious sedation and IV sedation.  Different levels of sedation (mild, moderate and deep) can be utilized depending on individual needs.  Before administering any sedative, our dental team must analyze the full medical history of the patient, taking note of any current medications.

Here is an overview of some of the most common types of dental sedatives:

IV Sedation

Intravenous sedation is a moderate type of sedation.  Patients who have previously experienced IV sedation often report feeling like they slept through the entire procedure.  Generally, IV sedation is used for shorter treatments.  It is administered via direct injection into the bloodstream, which means the effects are immediate.  Sometimes patients feel groggy and sleepy when the IV sedatives are withdrawn.  This is why it is important to bring a designated driver for the drive home.

Oral Conscious Sedation

Oral conscious sedation is an excellent choice for people who fear needles.  Oral medication is provided prior to treatment in order to induce a moderate state of sedation.  Though oral sedatives do not cause sleep, they usually dull the senses.  This means that most patients cannot remember the pain, smells or noises associated with the procedure.  Usually, a dose of medication is taken prior to the appointment, and then topped up during the procedure as required.

What types of drugs are used in oral conscious sedation?

Most of the drugs used in sedation dentistry are classified as benzodiazepines.  Benzodiazepines reduce anxiety, muscle spasms, insomnia and seizures.  Each medication has a different half-life, meaning that the effects last for varying amounts of time.  The estimated length of the procedure determines which type of drug is going to be most effective.

Here are some of the most common drugs used in oral conscious sedation:

Halcion® – Usually used to treat insomnia, Halcion is an effective sedative with amnesic properties.  A short half-life makes this sedative useful for shorter procedures.

Versed® – This sedative has the shortest half-life and is therefore less commonly used.  It alleviates anxiety in much the same way as nitrous oxide, and is used for visits that will take less than 30 minutes.

Unlike many general dental offices in North Carolina, Dr. Townsend has worked diligently to secure an Anesthesia permit for Moderate Conscious Sedation from the North Carolina State Dental Board. Additionally, he has undergone extensive training and credentialing to provide dental care under general anesthesia in an operating room environment. Dr. Townsend is pleased to serve on the medical staff of Blue Ridge Regional Hospital here in Spruce Pine, NC. If you have questions or concerns about sedation dentistry, please contact our office.