My mother is in her late 60s and is very fearful of the dentist, but she has some work she absolutely needs to have done soon. Her dentist told her that provides three levels of sedation dentistry and that she doesn’t need to fear or worry. I’m trying to help her understand exactly what she can expect, but I don’t know enough to really give a clear explanation. Can you explain what those three levels entail and what she can expect?
Sedation dentistry is a great way to help people overcome their anxiety, so they can receive the dental care they need. If your mother has ever had a traumatic experience at the dentist, or if she is one of the people who have a hard time getting numb with novocaine, sedation can probably help. Let’s take a look at the three levels of sedation your dentist talked about.
Sedation Level I: Nitrous Oxide
You have probably heard of the phrase “laughing gas,” but you may not know that it refers to nitrous oxide. This is a sedative gas that is breathed in through your nose while the dentist is working on your teeth. You can see an example of this nose mask in the image above: it covers just the nose, leaving the mouth free for the procedure. The gas produces a mildly euphoric state that can help you relax completely while remaining awake and aware. And for many patients who have a harder time getting completely numb, it can increase the effectiveness of novocaine, making dental care a much less frightening experience. And once the procedure is done and the nitrous oxide stops flowing, your mom will be ready to go about her daily life activities, including driving, because there are no after-effects of the gas.
Sedation Level II: Oral Sedation
There are people for whom nitrous doesn’t work, so the second level of sedation is offered. This is called oral sedation. If your mom is really scared, her dentist can give her a pill to take about a half hour before her appointment. This will require that she has someone to drive her to and from her office visit because she will be in too relaxed a state to drive. This pill will help reduce anxiety and produce a deeper feeling of relaxation. Again, even though the patient will feel very calm, she will be completely awake and aware of what is going on, but may not remember the procedure afterward.
Sedation Level III: IV Sedation
Finally, for people who experience a sense of extreme anxiety or fear, intravenous or IV sedation is available. This kind of sedative will place the patient in a very dreamy state, in which she won’t really care about what is taking place around her. While she will be awake enough to respond to requests from the dentist, she will likely not remember the procedure at all afterward. And this level will again require that someone drive her to and from her appointment because the effects can last for a while.
Whatever level of sedation your mom eventually chooses, you can help her understand that she is not likely to have another traumatic experience. Perhaps she can look forward to a lifetime of great dental care from here on.
Good luck to you and your mom in finding the dental health to improve your life.
This Blog is brought to you by Dr. David Pumphrey of Pumphrey Periodontics in Atlanta, Georgia.