Questions related to Sedation Dentistry
7 Critical Things You Need to Know NOW Before Having Sedation Dentistry
Q. What exactly is sedation dentistry?
Merriam Webster defines sedation as “a relaxed, calm or sleepy condition that results from taking a drug (called a sedative).”
The drugs used in sedation dentistry help you relax by calming you and making you sleepy so that you can get the dentistry you need, and want, without all the fear that’s been keeping you away.
Here’s an important point: with sedation, you remain aware of your surroundings, but your responses are very blunted. You don’t respond to the sound of the drill or the smells of the dental office the way you ordinarily would if you were wide awake.
You also don’t react to pain the same way. Remember, with sedation we have more ways to get you comfortable so the dentistry you want can now get done. We have a whole arsenal of drugs that can be used so you can be sedated in the best way possible, matched to your specific needs.
Q. How are those sedatives given to me?
That depends on which drug is being used. Some drugs are given by mouth (orally). Other drugs are absorbed into the bloodstream by placing it under the tongue. Some are inhaled through the nose while others are given intravenously (through the veins). Most of the time patients receiving sedation in a dental office will take the medication orally.
The types of sedatives used for you will depend on the dentistry that’s going to be done, any unique medical condition you may have, and any other drugs you may be taking.
In general the drugs are extremely safe and pose little risk when combined with other medications.
Sedatives in a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed sedatives used today. Valium is, probably, the best known in that class, and is an example of only one of the drugs that can be used. In sedation dentistry it’s almost always used in combination with other sedatives.
Q. What will I feel like while I'm sedated?
Generally speaking you will feel calmer and more relaxed after taking sedative medication. Most of the time you feel like the time has passed very quickly. A few hours can seem like just a few minutes to you. Also, you typically have little or no memory of the visit.
But it's important to understand that these drugs, like most drugs people take, can cause slightly differently effects to different people. In the dental office we tend to keep the sedation mild or moderate, and we can better adjust the level of sedation to the needs of the patient. This way the patient remains somewhat awake and is responsive. Let me explain with an example.
If you were going to have an operation in a hospital, an anesthesiologist would put you “to sleep” with medications very similar to the ones we use to sedate you in the dental office. That’s called general anesthesia. That’s where you are put out completely and your ability to react to the surgery is completely controlled by the anesthesiologist. Even your breathing is controlled! You are NOT awake!
Sedation is NOT that! It is not general anesthesia. With sedation you’re breathing on your own. You react, on your own, to verbal cues like, “open your mouth, turn to me, etc.” You just react a lot slower because you’re being affected by the we gave you. But remember that you are technically still awake.
And here’s a bonus: one of the best benefits of using these drugs is that many of them also cause you to have amnesia. That’s where you just can’t remember what happened, period.
And isn’t that what you want – to not know what’s going on and to remember almost nothing of the experience?
When you are comfortable and sedated, but still “technically” awake, the dentist and dental team can proceed more efficiently, getting a lot more dentistry done in a shorter period of time. Many years of dental neglect can be turned around in one or two dental appointments with the help of sedation dentistry.
It’s also very helpful for patients who can’t take time away from other things in their life, like work. Why should you need to take time off from work, over and over again, to get your dentistry done? With sedation dentistry it’s so convenient to get all the dentistry you need in as little as one or two peaceful trips to the dentist.
Q.Are there side effects to these sedatives?
No drug - NONE - is completely without risk. With some of the more powerful sedatives, like barbiturates, there is a greater chance of creating an addiction along with a whole bunch of very unfriendly side effects. But that’s not the case with the type of sedatives we use to sedate our dental patients. The ones we use do not cause addiction and carry very few side effects.
They are VERY safe!
But, as with any kind of medication, you must always be cautious and follow directions EXACTLY as instructed! Your reaction might be a bit different from another person’s reaction. This is the reason why all our patients must complete a detailed medical history regardless of whether or not they will be sedated. This includes a complete list of all the medications that they might be taking.
We want to minimize the chance that anything will go wrong. Patients may react differently to the same medication. That’s why it’s so important for you to answer all the questions as accurately as possible to prevent a potential problem from happening.
To further minimize any risk, during the actual sedation visit you are continually monitored throughout the entire appointment with a pulse oximeter and an automatic blood pressure monitor.
It’s for all these reasons that it so important to make sure you are being treated by a dentist who has extensive training in sedation as well as having the appropriate certificates and licensures.
Q.What special training does the office staff have?
Most states require a dentist to have specialized training, including a permit or certification, to be able to perform for sedation dentistry in the office.
Here at Albany Dental Care, P.C. we are fortunate to have Dr. Harvey Winter who is a Fellow in the Dental Organization for Conscious Sedation (DOCS) because of his dedication and commitment to the implementation of conscious sedation in dentistry. He has also completed intensive training in intravenous sedation at the St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Patterson, N.J. and is certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support.
Dr. Winter is fortunate to have alongside him Dr. Joseph Denning who is also DOCS certified to administer conscious sedation and is well on his way towards obtaining fellowship in the organization as well.
In addition, ALL members of the staff are trained in Basic Life Support and routinely undergo emergency drills in the office to always be prepared!
Q.OK. So what should I do now?
Call our office at (518) 482-0881 to schedule an appointment so we can meet and get to know one another. We’ll answer ALL your questions and we’ll also ask you a few questions so we can be sure that you get the care you want and deserve.
We’ll gather all the information we need, including your medical history, take any necessary x-rays, and try to figure out the best way to take care of you.
At this consultation visit, before any dentistry is done, you’ll tell us about your fears and concerns. You can ask us about our training, credentials and protocols and we’ll gladly tell you. As a matter of fact, we’ll tell you all these things even if you don’t ask us because we feel you should know as much about us as we know about you!
Q.What do I have to do on the day of the appointment?
After we decide to go ahead with the accepted treatment we will schedule an appointment to get it all done. Sometime before that appointment you will be given the necessary sedatives and prescriptions to ensure a good night’s sleep the night before and to minimize any anxiety for this very important appointment.
On the day of treatment your companion will bring you to the office. Once there we may give you some more medications before, and during, the actual appointment just to make sure you are comfortably sedated for the entire visit.
After it’s all over your companion will drive you home. All instructions specific to your situation will be given to you and your companion to make sure that your recovery at home will be the best and most comfortable you can have.
You should try to think of this as you would if you were going into the hospital for a minor surgical procedure. After such a procedure you wouldn’t immediately go back to work, would you? Well, the same rule of thumb applies here. We want you to take it easy for at least the rest of the day. In most cases you can go back to your normal lifestyle the next day.
In all cases we’re going to want you to drink lots of fluid after the appointment. Again, all instructions will be given to you as they relate to your specific situation.
Now really, isn’t this the way you always wanted dentistry to be?