Does the thought of going to the dentist fill you with dread?
You’re not alone.
Though avoiding the dentist can seriously impact your oral and overall health, WebMD estimates that as many as 20% of Americans actually avoid making appointments due to their fear of the dentist.
Fortunately, there is a solution: sedation dentistry.
Sedation can make dental visits bearable for people with dental anxiety or even dental phobia (an actual condition described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which affects 5% to 10% of people). It’s also effective for people who have a hard time sitting for long periods or who have trouble getting or staying numb.
“We want every patient to feel safe. The key is to let us know when you make an appointment,” says South Lamar Dentist Samantha Hollinger, DMD. “We can schedule a consultation in a non-clinical setting just to discuss your past negative experiences, fears, triggers, and anxiety responses and what we can do to make you more comfortable. We also take a thorough medical history and conduct an exam to physically assess your health to make sure you’re a good candidate for sedation.”
One option for sedation is nitrous oxide – commonly called “laughing gas.”
It’s not likely to make you giggly if you’re feeling anxious, though. What it does do is give you a feeling of calmness and detachment, helping you relax enough to sit through an exam and cleaning or a dental procedure, like filling a cavity.
“With nitrous, it’s not going to put you to sleep,” says Dr. Hollinger. “You may feel sort of like you’ve had a few cocktails and you just don’t really care what’s going on.”
Notably, nitrous is very safe. You don’t need someone to drive you to and from the appointment or take any other precautions. In fact, nitrous is even safe for children and can be used to help them overcome their fear or “the wiggles.”
For people with more severe or complex anxiety, your dentist can prescribe anxiety medication to take prior to the appointment. Nitrous is still used during the procedure, but this type of oral (anxiolysis) sedation gives a deep sense of relaxation and may even make you feel sleepy. Because of the addition of the anxiety medication, you do need someone to drive you to and from the appointment.
If your dentist recommends oral sedation, you’ll be asked to take a “test” pill beforehand to see how you react. “If you have a reaction that would interfere with dental treatment, we would explore other oral medication options,” says Dr. Hollinger. “For example, some medications can make a select group of people cry. You wouldn’t want to go into your dental appointment crying uncontrollably.”
Sedation has other benefits: it can reduce pain as well as time in the chair.
“Just like alcohol, sedation slows down your central nervous system, which can interfere with your pain receptors,” says Dr. Hollinger. “It helps us get the best result we can and decreases the amount of time you have to be in the chair.”
If you’re not a good candidate for sedation in a general practice setting, you can explore intravenous (IV) sedation in a hospital, typically under the care of an oral surgeon.
Contact TRU Dentistry Austin today to schedule a consultation and experience a calming dental experience from a dentist near you. Your dental health starts here.