Dental Phobia and Sedation Dentistry

Odontophobia, or dental phobia, is a serious condition that keeps many people from taking good care of their oral health.  According to the Dental Health Magazine article, “Overcoming Dental Fear with Sedation Dentistry,” an estimated 7 to 13% of people show signs of this mental issue through irrational and extreme fear of all things related to dental care.  And even more shocking, 50% of the population experiences some form of anxiety when faced with a visit to the dentist.  Fortunately, the dentistry world has responded to these staggering statistics with a safe and effective method, allowing an anxious patient to proceed with necessary treatments in a relaxed and virtually painless environment.

Sedation dentistry is exactly what it sounds like; utilizing a sedation-causing agent during a dental procedure to assist patients in achieving a very relaxed and comfortable state of being.  Just as there are varying degrees of anxiety, there are a variety of sedation methods available.

Oral Sedatives

These are pills taken by mouth approximately 30 minutes to an hour prior to a procedure.  Examples include Ativan, Valium, Xanax, and they act in two ways.  In higher doses, they not only induce a calming effect, but may also cause drowsiness, but in lower doses, they simply relieve anxious feelings.  They do not provide pain relief however, so a local anesthetic may be required.

Intravenous Conscious Sedation

IV sedation administers anti-anxiety medication directly into the blood stream through a vein.  Any patient receiving this form of sedation will remain conscience throughout the procedure, but will likely not be able to recall the experience.  A local anesthetic will also be required, as IV sedation doesn’t provide relief from pain.

Inhalation Sedation

Nitrous Oxide is used in this method, which has been commonly referred to as “laughing gas.” It is colorless and odorless, and is easily administered by inhaling the gas.   With this method, the dentist is in constant control of the depth of sedation a patient experiences.  The gas is easily eliminated from the body and only takes approximately 3 to 5 minutes to do so.

General Anesthesia

This method is rarely used for dental treatment, but is utilized when there are no other means of relieving pain and anxiety.  Unlike the above mentioned methods, general anesthesia causes the patient to lose consciousness.  When utilizing this treatment, a patient is required to be accompanied by a companion, as they will not be able to travel alone upon completion of the procedure.

The benefits from good oral health affect all aspects of your life, from a positive self-image to possible life-saving treatments.  However, fear of the dentist is a very real problem for many people.  Fortunately, there is a simple solution available so that all may have access to dental care.  Explore sedation dentistry and find out if it is right for you.

Written by Mark Paulsort

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