A common reason people avoid the dentist is an underlying fear of the pain or discomfort dental treatment could involve. The anxiety of not knowing how painful a treatment will be and if or how you will cope with it, can lead to a complete avoidance of the dentist. However modern dental treatments are no longer a painful experience with use of local anaesthetic. Nonetheless, your nerves can still make visiting the dentist a stressful experience.
What is sedation dentistry?
Sedation dentistry calms your nerves and relaxes you during your dental treatment. While the name may leave you thinking that you’ll fall into a deep sleep, you will actually be aware and awake throughout your treatment.
There are two main techniques used in sedation dentistry: intravenous sedation and inhalation sedation.
Intravenous sedation uses a needle to inject a liquid sedative into your body. This is done in a controlled manner so that you will feel relaxed throughout your treatment and unbothered by the work being carried out on your teeth. Once your treatment is complete it will take a little while for the sedative effects to completely wear off. It is therefore advised that you avoid drinking, driving and operating machinery during this time. Your memory of the procedure will often be quite fuzzy.
Inhalation sedation is an ideal alternative for those who would like to avoid the use of a needle. It involves wearing a small mask over your nose and mouth. Two gases – oxygen and nitrous oxide – are pumped through the mask to make you feel calm. The effects of inhalation sedation wear off much faster than intravenous sedation; usually within five minutes of breathing in normal air again.
Both inhalation and intravenous sedation are designed to relax you during your treatment; they do not provide pain relief. You will therefore still need local anaesthetic to be applied to numb the area where your treatment is being carried out.