There are over 98 thousand professional dentists in the United States. Many of them use sedation therapy to manage pain.
Everyone has a different pain threshold. Your threshold is influenced by your gender, your age, and your health. When you visit a sedation dentist, he or she will discuss the various types of sedation available to you for pain and anxiety management.
The sedative methods used for sedation dentistry vary in strength and purpose. Your dentist will select the sedation dentistry option that is best for you based on the treatments performed, how long these procedures will take and your level of anxiety. Although your dentist will ultimately determine what sedatives will be used, you can request stronger sedatives if you suffer from severe anxiety.
Levels of sedation range from mild, to moderate, to deep and are achieved through different types of sedatives. Here are the 3 main modalities, arranged by strength of sedative process:
Anxiolysis: Anxiolysis is defined by minimal or mild sedation and is associated with relieving anxiety. Inhalation analgesia (also known as nitrous oxide or “laughing gas”) is one of the more commonly requested types of anesthesia from people who have anxieties about their procedure. It is administered via a small nose-hood placed over the nose through which nitrous oxide is delivered prior to and throughout treatment. In addition to some tingling and numbness, nitrous oxide typically evokes an overall feeling of well-being.
Sedation dentists, sometimes called sleep dentists, also recommend sedation for patients with a severe gag reflex. This gag reflex can make even the simplest of dental procedures, such as teeth cleaning, a torment.
Moderate Sedation: Moderate sedation is defined by a depressed level of consciousness, meaning you can breathe independently, retain your reflexes and respond to verbal/physical stimulation. Oral sedation, or oral conscious sedation (OCS) – most often associated with sedation dentistry – produces moderate sedation via oral medication dispensed to the patient before the appointment to diminish awareness of pain, sounds and smells. The patient is instructed to take the medication prior to being driven to the appointment by a responsible caregiver and, once at the appointment, may receive additional medication as needed to ensure comfort.
Deep sedation: Deep sedation, which is not considered a sedation dentistry modality, involves depressed consciousness in which a patient may not breath independently, loses some of his/her reflexes and is unable to respond to verbal/physical stimulation. This level of sedation is typically achieved with IV sedation or general anesthesia medications, the effects of which may linger for hours after the procedure is completed. It is only recommended in cases of extensive oral surgery, and requires the presence of a licensed anesthesiologist.