Fear of the dentist is not an uncommon feeling. In fact, some estimates claim that as many as 75% of U.S. adults deal with some kind of anxiety every time they set up another appointment with the dentist. Unfortunately, for some people this goes beyond simple anxiety and is severe enough to make them avoid the dentist all together.

There are several ways to overcome these fears. For some, it’s about meditation and breathing exercises. For others, it’s all about bringing in a little moral support to make it through the treatment.

There is, of course, the option of dealing with your fears by sleeping through them. Well, “sleeping” isn’t exactly the right word. Sedation dentistry is often referred to as sleep dentistry, but the patient isn’t necessarily completely out cold.

The goal of sedation dentistry is to help the patient completely relax throughout the entire procedure, and there is a couple ways to accomplish this.

Before The Appointment

The most common form of sedation dentistry is to use some medication before coming to the office. This does mean that you will need someone to safely drive you to and from your appointment, of course, because the sedation will kick in pretty quick.

It’s possible to control the level of sedation this way, and we can increase the level depending on your concerns. In some cases, our patients only need minimal sedation. They will be fully relaxed but fully awake through the procedure. Others may require deeper sedation to get through the procedure – in which case, we might need to use a different procedure.

At the Appointment

Nitrous oxide – the famous “laughing gas” – is what most people think of when they hear the words sedation dentistry. There’s a good reason for this. It has been the most common form of sedation for decades. This gas is sweet-smelling, colorless, and doesn’t cause irritations. It is safe to use, and the patient is able to breathe on their own and maintain control over all their bodily functions.

There are several reasons that dentists still like using nitrous oxide. We can easily control the depth of the sedation, and there are no harmful side effects. It minimizes gagging, and there are no “hangover” aftereffects.

Most importantly, it lets us get to work quickly. Nitrous oxide will reach the brain in 20 seconds, and it only takes a couple minutes after that for the relaxation to kick in and the pain-killing properties to develop.

Are You a Candidate for Sedation Dentistry?

The most common reason for sedation dentistry is for a patient whose anxiety is keeping them from getting the dental care they need. However, this may also be a good option if you have a low pain tolerance, a bad gag reflex, or extremely sensitive teeth. We might also decide to use one of these options if you have trouble staying still in the chair for extended periods.

However, it’s not necessarily for everyone. Nitrous oxide, for example, should not be used if you’ve been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and we may be cautious about using it if you have other chest problems, such as emphysema or M.S.

The best way to determine whether or not this is a good option for you is to discuss your concerns openly with us. Remember, fear of the dentist is not an uncommon thing. If the thought of dental treatments make you nervous, you’re not the only one. Talk to us about it, and together we’ll determine your best option.