Many people fear the dentist and avoid going. As a result, both dental and general health can suffer. Fear can be overcome in many ways, including counselling, oral sedation before treatment, intravenous sedation or even a general anaesthetic. Both the dentist and patient will decide together on the best option, depending on the type of treatment required and the level of anxiety.
A sedated or anaesthetised patient is always under the care of a team member and is never left alone. The patient’s breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, heart rhythms and the amount of oxygen in the blood are usually monitored and recorded. This adds to the safety of the procedure.
Types of pain and anxiety control
There are several methods that may be employed to improve patient comfort and acceptance of dental procedures:
An oral sedative may also be prescribed for you to take before treatment. This sedative will greatly reduce “pre-appointment butterflies” and make treatment more comfortable. Additional sedation may be given at the time of your dental treatment to supplement the oral sedation.
Nitrous Oxide Sedation
Nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) has been used for years to relax anxious patients. A small “hood” is placed over the nose through which a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide is inhaled. This mixture will make you relaxed and sleepy. A feeling of well-being is experienced and dental procedures are much more comfortable. When used on children, often no local anaesthetic is required.
Intravenous sedation is a very efficient and effective way of providing profound anxiety relief and pain control during dental procedures. The sedative and often a painkiller are given into a vein on the forearm or the back of the hand. The injection is virtually painless. The patient drifts off into a state of drowsiness and time seems to pass very quickly. The dentist may also use nitrous oxide to make the sedation more effective and administer a local anaesthetics as required. Intravenous sedation is administered by a visiting medical practitioner.
General anaesthetic may be recommended in certain cases. General anaesthesia causes loss of consciousness during which the patient is monitored closely by an anaesthetist. The patient is totally unaware of treatment and will not feel any pain. Recovery normally takes longer and may be less pleasant than with intravenous sedation. This procedure is only available in a hospital.