I am afraid to go to the dentist, and I’m wondering if sedation dentistry might help me. When I was about ten years old, I had to have oral surgery. It was a pretty traumatic experience because the dentist started operating before I was numb, and when I reacted to the pain, he just said, “What’s wrong?” When I told him he was hurting me, he basically told me I was imagining things. Ever since then, I have been really afraid. Even thinking about it makes me queasy. But I’ve made a resolution that this year I will find a way to get my dental health back. I’ve heard that sedation can really help people like me. Do you think it would be enough?
Good for you for reaching out. It takes a lot of courage, as you said, to overcome dental fear enough to even ask about sedation dentistry. But your resolution is going to go a long way to helping you overcome your fear. Once you’ve decided that you no longer have to live with the consequences of someone else’s mistake and are willing to reach out for help, you’re more than half way there.
Overview of Sedation Dentistry
To answer your question in a word, yes. Sedation dentistry and a calm, gentle, and understanding dentist can help, and both are probably equally important. Some people, and you sound like you may be one of them, simply don’t get completely numb with novocaine alone. And the important thing to understand about that is that sometimes sedation can change that. Many patients who don’t get numb with novocaine alone have no trouble if they have nitrous oxide or oral sedation, and for patients whose fear is extreme, IV sedation can remove all anxiety along with any memory of the procedure. So let’s take a look at these three types of sedation.
Nitrous oxide is a sedative that is breathed in along with oxygen through your nose. It’s often been called “laughing gas” because it produces a very nice relaxed state that can ease any anxiety and help novocaine work more effectively. The great thing about novocaine is that once you stop breathing it, the effects are gone immediately, so you can drive and return to work or other activities quickly.
If nitrous oxide doesn’t work well enough for you, oral sedation might. Oral sedation is a pill that you will take about a half hour before your procedure. This is usually a common medication that will give you a deeper sense of relaxation and ease. Many people experience it as a feeling of not caring about anything, and with this type of sedation, you may or may not even remember your time in the dentist’s chair. You will, however, need someone to drive you home afterwards, because you will be too relaxed drive safely.
IV sedation causes a more profoundly relaxed state, almost like sleep. You will be awake and aware enough to respond to requests to open your mouth, etc., but you will likely not remember anything about the procedure. Again, with this type of sedation, you will need someone to drive you home after your appointment.
Many dentists offer a complimentary consultation for patients who are fearful or who are looking for more extensive work. It’s a great idea to take advantage of this opportunity to speak with a dentist before you decide to have a complete exam. If the dentist is a sedation dentist, it is much more likely that he or she will understand what you need to overcome your fear and begin to enjoy the benefits of regular dental care.
Best of luck to you in finding the right dentist to help you.
This blog is brought to you by Dr. David Pumphrey of Pumphrey Periodontics in Atlanta.