Whether you have a dental phobia or you need extensive dental work and are feeling a bit nervous about it, sedation dentistry can help you get through your procedure without anxiety. For some patients, though, the thought of dental sedation also makes them nervous, creating another obstacle in getting the treatment they need. Is sedation dentistry safe? What are the risks and side effects? We provide answers in the blog post below.
Understanding Sedation Dentistry
“Sedation dentistry” is an umbrella term that can be used to describe a number of different methods that keep patients calm and relaxed during their dental treatments. Before discussing the safety of sedation dentistry, it’s important to understand the different forms of sedation that are available.
At our Wall Street dental practice, we offer:
Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is the mildest form of dental sedation. If you’re using nitrous oxide for your procedure, we will place a small mask over your nose; you’ll breathe in a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen, which will help you feel calm. Nitrous oxide takes effect quickly, and it wears off within seconds of removing the mask, which means there are no lingering side effects and few, if any, risks. Patients may feel dizzy, lightheaded, and have a sensation of heaviness or tingling in their arms and legs. More bothersome side effects include headaches and nausea.
Nitrous oxide has a long track record of safety, which is why it’s the preferred sedation method for pediatric patients.
Conscious Oral Sedation
We use conscious oral sedation for patients with more serious dental anxieties and phobias. While still a form of minimal sedation, it does offer a deeper level of relaxation than nitrous oxide. Your doctor will prescribe an oral anti-anxiety medication that you will take before your appointment; this medication will make you feel calm and drowsy, but you are fully awake for your procedure. Conscious oral sedation also has few risks or side effects, but it lasts longer than nitrous oxide, so it’s likely that you’ll continue to feel drowsy for a few hours after your appointment.
Sedation Dentistry Safety
The safety of sedation dentistry has been in the news a lot lately, but many of the stories you read are concerning IV sedation. When IV sedation is used improperly, it can cause devastating complications. Although patients who are getting IV sedation feel as if they are sleeping and have no memory of their procedures, they are still technically conscious and managing their own airways. If, however, IV sedation is administered improperly, a patient may fall into a deeper state of sedation and stop breathing on their own. Without a trained anesthesiology team standing by, this is a dangerous situation.
Many of these risks are being addressed by stricter guidelines, but regardless, we don’t offer IV sedation at our practice. You don’t have to worry about safety when it comes to minimal forms of sedation like nitrous oxide and conscious oral sedation. For most patients, the worst side effect they have is a headache.