If you experience intense fear every time you think about dental checkups, you’re not alone. It is estimated that 50% of the adult population in the US have an intense fear of going to the dentist. If you fall in this category, you may be a good fit for sedation dentistry.

What is it?

Essentially, your dentist will give you sedatives to help you relax during a dental procedure. This helps relieve anxiety and stress. It’s sometimes mistakenly called “sleep dentistry” although you don’t always go to sleep during the process. The medication can be used to varying degrees during more intense oral surgery or even during a routine cleaning. The levels of sedation used include:

  • Minimal sedation — you are awake but relaxed. Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is administered through a mask placed over your nose. The gas is there to help you relax, and it wears off quickly. Most of the time, you are even able to drive yourself home after a procedure that uses this kind of sedation.
  • Moderate sedation (sometimes called “conscious sedation”) — Usually delivered in pill form, this is the type of anesthesia most commonly associated with sedation dentistry. You may become groggy enough to actually fall asleep during the procedure, but can be awakened with a gentle shake. Your dentist may also use an IV to administer the sedative to make it take effect more quickly.
  • Deep sedation and general anesthesia. This is the type of anesthesia that’s usually reserved for more intensive procedures, such as dental implants. In this case, you will be admitted into a hospital or surgery center and will be completely unconscious throughout the procedure until the anesthesia wears off.

On top of assisting with fears and stress associated with dental visits, sedation dentistry has other benefits. Because you’re not straining to hold your mouth open while you’re sedated, your dentist can perform longer procedures without discomfort. As a result, you’ll have less overall visits to the dentist. If you’ve always had a lot of anxiety about the dentist, talk to us about sedation dentistry today!