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How Does Dental Sedation Work?
August 25, 2015
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dental sedation Naperville

Sedation transforms the dental chair into a relaxing place – but how does it make that switch happen?

We talk about the impact sedation dentistry has on patient comfort quite a bit – but what about the patients nervous about the sedation process? In this case, they can actually feel even more anxious at the prospect of receiving sedation. Whether you fear the lack of control, needles (when receiving IV sedation), or the loss of memory, that has a big impact on how you feel in the office.

We find that learning more about your sedation (prior to your appointment) will help you know that you’re making the right choice. This post details the different options available at Premier Dental, and exactly what you can expect from your sedation experience. Remember, taming your anxiety isn’t going to come about just as a result of sedation – it’s really based on the environment created by your dentist. Dr. Zymantas and our staff have decades of experience treating anxiety, and we take a gentle approach to help you relax. If you ever have questions, get in touch for reassurance.

Why Am I Anxious During Dental Treatment?

In the case of dental treatment, anxiety tends to stem from fear. When you’re afraid, big changes take hold throughout your body. You’re hypersensitive, so your pain threshold is far lower. Chemicals like adrenaline flood your body, heightening your fight or flight instincts. You tense your muscles out of an expectation of something painful or upsetting happening. When you receive sedation, these changes cease to control you. Instead of feeling more anxious than usual, you feel more relaxed than usual.

There’s a sedation option that’s right for you. Dr. Zymantas will talk to you and find the best possible choice for your unique needs.

Oral Conscious Sedation

This type of sedation is prescribed before your appointment date. You take the pill at home, so that you’re relaxed by the time you’re in the dental chair. The sedative you’re prescribed will likely belong to a class called benzodiazepines. When taken in small doses, they relieve symptoms of anxiety. In higher doses, they cause patients to become sleepy and more sedated.

Benzodiazepines depress the central nervous system, leading to a decline in blood pressure and slowed breathing. This prevents your heart from racing, and induces calm.

Some benzodiazepines have amnesiac properties, meaning that you will not remember some or all of the procedure. However, this is not a common side effect of oral conscious sedation. If you’re hoping to forget the procedure, IV sedation is a better choice.

Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas)

Probably the most commonly used dental sedative, nitrous oxide is inhaled with a mixture of oxygen. It’s been in use for around 100 years, and helped countless patients. Nitrous is most effective as a pain reliever, with most of its effects impacting your ability to sense discomfort. It still improves anxiety, but not as thoroughly as oral conscious sedation.

Since nitrous is mixed with oxygen, it is a very safe and easily controlled medication. You breathe it through a small, cup-like hood that is placed over your nose. As it takes hold, you’ll feel euphoric and slightly light-headed (but not faint). The experience is pleasant and comfortable. Effects wear off right away, so there’s little holdover throughout the rest of your day.

IV Sedation

IV sedation is called by many different names: twilight sedation, sleep sedation, deep conscious sedation, and more. But what these names misrepresent is your level of responsiveness while under this sedation. While you may not remember the procedure after the fact (leading you to feel like you were asleep during it), you are responsive and aware throughout. You’re able to communicate with our staff, and respond easily to commands.

This medication is delivered via the blood stream, intravenously. Dr. Zymantas has received advanced training to be able to administer IV sedation, and adjust it carefully for the ideal patient experience. This form of sedation works almost immediately, but also requires more downtime after treatment. Your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing must also be monitored throughout.

Memory loss is common with IV sedation, and anti-anxiety effects are more profound. IV sedation is appropriate for patients with advanced anxiety/dental phobia.

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