The More You Know: Sedation Dentistry

The use of sedation in dentistry has grown immensely in the last several years and is now used in many dental practices. Whether it’s necessary to complete an invasive procedure or to help calm anxiety for a tooth cleaning, sedation dentistry is a safe, effective practice that has changed the way many view their dental experience. The following is a brief overview of the basics on sedation dentistry and how it might help you in your dental treatment.

According to an article from WebMD, there are four basic levels of sedation:

  • Minimal sedation: you’re awake but relaxed.
  • Moderate sedation (formerly referred to as “conscious sedation”): while you remain conscious, you may not remember much of your experience and might slur your speech.
  • Deep sedation: you are on the edge of consciousness but can still be awakened.
  • General anesthesia: you are completely unconscious.

These various levels of sedation are reached using the following methods:

  • Inhaled minimal sedation: You breathe nitrous oxide (laughing gas) combined with oxygen through a mask that is placed over your nose. This gas helps you relax, and your dentist can control the amount of sedation you receive. Because it tends to wear off quickly, you may be allowed to drive yourself home after the procedure.
  • Oral sedation: This method ranges from minimal to moderate. For minimal sedation, a pill is taken, typically Halcion, which is in the same drug family as Valium. It’s taken about an hour before the procedure, and will make you drowsy. A larger dose is given to reach moderate sedation, and some people become groggy enough to actually fall asleep during the procedure. Patients usually can be awakened with a gentle shake.
  • IV moderate sedation: The sedative drug is administered through a vein, allowing for rapid effect. The dentist is able to continually adjust the level of sedation with this method.
  • Deep sedation and general anesthesia: Medication is administered to make you either almost unconscious or deeply asleep. You can not be easily awakened until either the anesthesia wears off or are reversed with medication.

Sedation is appropriate for a number of dental patients, including those who struggle with a real fear or anxiety about dental work, have a low pain threshold, can’t sit still in the dentist’s chair, have very sensitive teeth, have a bad gag reflex, or need a large amount of dental work completed. Children are sometimes give sedation too, especially if they have difficulty cooperating during the visit. Nitrous oxide tends to used most often, as it is extremely safe when closely monitored and within the recommended dose.

Most dentists are permitted to administer minimal sedation, such as nitrous oxide or pills, however only a small percentage are qualified to use deep sedation and general anesthesia. Completion of specialized training, including the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) program is required. Each state has a dental board that carefully regulates the use of sedation techniques, and many require dentists to hold permits in order to perform sedation.

There is always a risk when getting anesthesia, however when administered by a qualified, experienced dentist, the use of sedation is very safe. There are certain circumstances that increase any risk associated with anesthesia, making it critical to have a conversation with your dentist prior to any treatment. In addition to being certain your dentist has all the necessary qualifications, be sure to do the following before undergoing sedation:

  • Discuss, in depth, your medical history, including any medications you are currently taking.
  • Ask what dose is appropriate for your age and health, being sure that that dose falls within the FDA recommendation.
  • Talk with your dentist about their training and experience. The more procedures the dentist has under their belt, the better.
  • You should be given a form detailing the risks of the procedure. Read it carefully with your dentist, and ask questions about anything that you are unclear about.
  • Confirm that your dentist will monitor your vital signs during the procedure, and that oxygen and drugs that reverse the effects of the sedation are on hand in the event of an emergency.

At Miami Dental Sedation Spa, we pride ourselves on the caring, professional, and cheerful treatment of our patients, under the leadership of Dr. Luis Sanchez. Dr. Sanchez is extremely qualified and experienced in the field of sedation dentistry, having  received advanced education in IV sedation from Dr. John A. Yagiela, chair of the Division of Diagnostic and Surgical Sciences at UCLA, a worldwide authority on sedation. For more information on sedation dentistry and the unparallelled service at Miami Dental Sedation Spa, please visit our website at http://www.miamidentalsedationspa.com/.

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