For many patients, the idea of having any treatment done at the dental office strikes fear and terror into their hearts. This fear could be rooted in a past traumatic experience or may have no explanation at all. What we find more often than not is that this fear makes patients avoid seeking dental treatment even when they know they need it. This delay always leads to the problems worsening, sometimes past the point of saving. We have several options to help our patients overcome their fears and get their treatment done before it gets worse.
For our mildly anxious patients, we can use nitrous oxide gas to reduce anxiety. Nitrous oxide is also called laughing gas and has been used for dental anxiety for decades. It is safe and effective and its effects wear off within minutes of completing the procedure. This is an advantage because the effects do not linger on throughout the day.
If the apprehension and anxiety are much greater, we have a different medication that is much stronger. While still an oral medication, this treatment brings the patient into a deeper level of sedation. Enteral sedation requires the patient to come to our office about an hour before their appointment for the first dose of medication. After an hour, the patient will be evaluated to determine the level of sedation.
Most of the time, another dose will then be given. During this time, the patient will be hooked up to a vital signs monitor. The monitor will stay active during the entirety of the procedure. Since enteral sedation is a deeper level of sedation, the law requires that the patient has someone drive them to and from their appointment and monitor them after going home. Enteral sedation is not general anesthesia but it usually causes patients to sleep through most of the procedure. It is very effective for most fearful patients!
When enteral sedation is not enough, we have one further option. Because enteral sedation is taken by mouth, the level of medication that actually reaches the blood stream is variable based on every person’s own biological make up. We can remove this variable from the equation by circumventing the digestive system all together. This is done by placing an IV line in the back of the hand. Using this IV line, we can push medications directly into the blood stream. Because of this we are able to keep a more consistent level of sedation throughout the procedure. When a patient requires IV sedation, we have a dental anesthesiologist come into the office to perform the sedation while Dr. Austin performs the dental treatment. This type of sedation is best for very fearful patients.
No matter what your level of fear and anxiety may be, we have the perfect prescription to make your dental care a breeze!