If you’re nervous about your next dentist visit, you’re not alone—researchers estimate that up to 60 percent of adults are at least mildly afraid of going to the dentist, while 1 or 2 in every 10 adults have a dental phobia. Fortunately, some sedation procedures allow for a pleasant and stress-free experience, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve seen a dentist. Learn more about sedation dentistry to determine whether this could be a beneficial option for you.

What is Sedation Dentistry?

There are several different sedation levels for dental patients, ranging from conscious sedation to general anesthesia.

Conscious sedation is usually accomplished through the administration of nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas.” The dentist or dental hygienist will place a mask on your face and instruct you to take a few deep breaths. Within just a couple of minutes, you should begin to feel euphoric, and your thoughts will drift far from the dentist’s chair.

Because you’re awake during this sedation and should be able to respond to commands, the dentist and dental hygienist should have no trouble performing the necessary procedures, whether it’s routine cleaning and examination or a root canal.

Oral sedation involves the use of medications to induce relaxation and a sense of calm. The strength of these medications can range from mild to moderate, and some patients may fall asleep during the procedure! Because these anti-anxiety medications remain in your system for a few hours or longer, you’ll usually need to arrange for a ride home after your procedure.

Because general anesthesia carries its own set of risks and complications, it’s usually used only for the most invasive treatments—like multiple tooth extractions—or for patients for whom other types of sedation aren’t an option.

Who is a Candidate for Sedation Dentistry?

Anyone who has avoided seeking dental treatment due to their fear of the dental chair (or who find themselves obsessing over a dentist appointment for days) may be a good candidate for sedation dentistry. Nitrous oxide leaves the bloodstream quickly and carries an extremely low risk of adverse effects, so it’s appropriate for most patients.

Oral sedation is also widely used; before providing you with the medication, your dentist will ask you some detailed questions about your health history to ensure that the medication prescribed is right for you.

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