Comfortable Care: 6 Ways Sedation Dentistry Helps Patients Overcome Dental Fear and Anxiety

Sedation dentistry can help with anxiety

If you were to sit down with a pen and paper (okay, maybe a mobile device and digital notepad) to write down the things you don’t like to do, chances are going to the dentist would make the list. In fact, an article in Buzzfeed listed going to the dentist in the top 50 of things people just hate to do.

But if you have dental anxiety or dentophobia, your reasons for avoiding time in the dental chair expand beyond simple dislike. And 36% of people in our country have a fear of dental treatment, while 12% have an extreme fear. If you are one of these people that starts to sweat and the anxiety kicks in when it is time for a dental visit, this article is for you.

Sedation dentistry is your ticket to get through your next dental appointment. 

If you start experiencing any of these signs or symptoms of dental fear, you should know there are things we can help do to help make your appointment easier to manage. 

  • Perspiration, rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), or palpitations
  • Decreased blood pressure and potential fainting spells (syncope)
  • Evident agitation, tears, or indications of panic
  • Retreat from social situations or employ humor or aggression as coping mechanisms for concealing anxiety

Here are some common strategies that tend to work for patients with dental anxiety or fear.

  • Relaxation techniques. Incorporating deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery can help calm dental anxiety.
  • Distraction techniques. Using headphones to listen to music, watching videos, or engaging in other forms of entertainment during dental procedures to divert attention and reduce anxiety.
  • Communication with the dentist. Openly discussing fears and concerns beforehand with us can help establish trust and enable them to adjust the treatment approach accordingly.
  • Gradual exposure. Gradually exposing oneself to dental settings through frequent visits for minor procedures or consultations can desensitize and reduce anxiety over time.
  • Support system. Seeking support from friends, family, or dental anxiety support groups can provide reassurance and encouragement during dental visits.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Participating in CBT sessions with a mental health professional can help identify and modify negative thought patterns and develop coping strategies for dental anxiety.
  • Medication. In some cases, dentists or doctors may prescribe anti-anxiety medications to manage anxiety symptoms before dental appointments.
  • Seeking a dental professional experienced in treating anxious patients. Choosing a dentist specializing in treating dental anxiety, such as Dr. Monroe can make the dental experience more comfortable and less intimidating.
  • Oral health education. Gaining knowledge about dental procedures, oral hygiene practices, and the overall importance of oral health can alleviate anxiety by fostering a sense of control and understanding.
  • Sedation options. Exploring sedation dentistry, such as nitrous oxide (laughing gas), oral sedatives, or intravenous sedation, may help relax patients during dental procedures. Read on to learn more about the various sedation dentistry options available from Monroe Family Dentistry, including inhalation sedation.

Three Types of Sedation Dentistry 

When it comes to helping you manage extreme dental fear or anxiety, the best approach may be the use of sedation dentistry. Dentists typically offer one or more of the following options.

Nitrous Oxide Sedation

Inhalation sedation, commonly known as laughing gas or nitrous oxide, is a safe option for both children and adults during dental procedures, as it allows you to remain awake and aware. By placing a mask over your nose and instructing you to take deep breaths, the laughing gas takes effect within moments. 

Unlike other sedation methods, laughing gas wears off quickly, allowing you to drive yourself home or resume your daily activities. If your child receives laughing gas, they can return to school after their appointment. This approach to sedation dentistry carries minimal risks, and any side effects disappear once the mask is removed. While inhalation sedation can be used for various dental procedures, more extensive treatments may require additional pain-prevention methods such as local anesthesia for numbing purposes, such as for a tooth that needs a filling. You can receive sedation dentistry through inhalation sedation from your Greenville family dental team.

Oral Sedation

Oral sedatives can be considered if you prefer not to be asleep during the dental procedure or have concerns about the outcome. These medications provide moderate sedation that lasts for several hours, allowing the dentist to complete the entire treatment.

One commonly prescribed oral sedative is Halcion, which has similar properties to Valium. You will take the medication approximately an hour before the procedure. Within a few minutes, you will start feeling drowsy and relaxed, but you will still be able to respond to questions and follow instructions.

Oral sedatives offer a good balance of relaxation and pain reduction. They are suitable for various dental procedures, including root canals, as the effects last longer. However, it is important to note that you may need a driver to accompany you home after dental surgery due to the lingering effects of the sedative.

IV Sedation 

Intravenous (IV) dental sedation involves administering anti-anxiety and anesthesia medications directly into your bloodstream, inducing complete relaxation and ease within seconds. You will be closely monitored throughout the procedure to ensure safety and comfort. Alongside sedation, a local anesthetic will guarantee your utmost comfort during treatment. 

For your safety, it is essential to have a responsible adult accompany you to your IV sedation appointment, drive you home, and stay with you for 24 hours. Detailed written instructions will be provided during your sedation consultation, and it is crucial to adhere to them diligently.

Benefits of Inhalation Sedation

At Monroe Family Dentistry, we have found that inhalation sedation, aka laughing gas, works effectively for most patients. Our patients tend to experience the following benefits:

  1. Reduces anxiety and fear. Inhalation sedation, such as laughing gas, helps alleviate anxiety and fear, allowing patients to feel more relaxed and comfortable during dental procedures.
  2. Increases comfort. Inhalation sedation provides greater comfort by reducing pain perception and promoting a sense of ease throughout the treatment.
  3. Time efficient. Inhalation sedation is a time-efficient option as it takes effect quickly, allowing dental procedures to be completed efficiently without compromising patient comfort.
  4. Protects oral health. By enabling patients to remain calm and cooperative during dental treatments, inhalation sedation ensures oral health procedures can be performed thoroughly and effectively, promoting better long-term oral health.
  5. Minimizes gag reflex. Inhalation sedation can help reduce the gag reflex, making it easier for both the patient and the dentist to carry out necessary dental procedures.
  6. Eases dental phobia. Inhalation sedation offers a valuable solution for individuals with dental phobia, allowing them to overcome their fears and receive necessary dental care more comfortably and stress-free.

Don’t let your dental anxiety keep you out of the dental chair.

Visiting your dentist every six months for general dentistry treatments, such as a professional cleaning, oral cancer screening, and oral evaluation can help you protect not only your oral health but your overall health. When you skip your appointments due to dental anxiety or otherwise, plaque builds up on your teeth, hardening into tartar, which can only be removed by a dental professional. This buildup can lead to tooth decay and, ultimately, cavities, gum disease, and overall poor oral health.

Reach out today to request an appointment. Let us know that you have dental anxiety, and we’ll be prepared to help put you at ease every step of the way.

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