Dental anxiety or a phobia can prevent people from visiting the dentist and receiving the treatment they need. This can further worsen oral health issues and have a negative impact on their smile.
However, modern dentistry provides various degrees of dental sedation which can help relax patients who suffer with dental anxiety, making it easier to attend important dental appointments.
Also called nitrous oxide, laughing gas is a common form of dental sedation available at most dental practices. Laughing gas is inhaled through a mask at your appointment, a non-invasive sedative which helps you relax while remaining awake throughout the procedure.
This is a mild dental sedative, but it will still prevent you from feeling pain during your treatment as well as removing any anxiety. The effects of the gas soon pass once your treatment is complete and you will be able to drive yourself home from the dental practice.
Oral sedation provides a moderate form of sedation, one you may want to consider if laughing gas does not ease your anxiety enough. The sedative may be in pill or liquid form, but is designed to be taken before your appointment so you arrive at the dental practice already feeling relaxed.
Your dentist may apply further sedation during the procedure, if necessary, in order to combat any anxiety or pain. The strength of this sedative and the requirement to take it prior to an appointment means you will need someone to drive you to and from the dentist.
Heavier sedation can be given if necessary, which is administered directly in to the vein. This form of IV sedation may make you feel like you are asleep, but you will actually still be awake through your dental procedure.
IV sedation tends to be used for shorter dental treatments and can take a little while to recover from afterwards. Therefore, you will need to ensure someone can drive you to and from the dental practice after receiving IV sedation.
General anesthesia is another IV sedation, but one which will put you to sleep. This is the deepest from of dental sedation and you may not have any recall of the procedure at all. It is largely reserved as an option for anyone who cannot be sedated using the previous methods. The effects of a general anesthesia can be long lasting and you will need someone to drive you home after your treatment.
Bottom line: Please get the dental treatment you need, including exams. Talk to your dentist about your fears, and you will get the help you need. Today’s dentists are fully aware of dental anxiety, and want you to feel comfortable — so they will help in any way possible.