In the current film Ghost Town, Ricky Gervais' character, a self-absorbed dentist named Bertram Pincus, uses nitrous oxide, N2O, to elicit information from a reluctant patient, a human rights lawyer (with self-righteous teeth). As Gervais is about to administer the gas, the patient says, "I didn't know you guys still used that," or words to that effect. The truth is that nitrous oxide is a very common option for patients to overcome dental anxiety through sedation dentistry, though many people do not know it.
Sedation Dentistry Options
Sedation dentistry is a service offered by many dentists to help patients overcome their dental anxiety. There are three main options available for sedation dentistry today:
· Oral Sedation
· Sedation by Nitrous Oxide Gas
· IV Sedation
Other options exist, including submucosal, intramuscular, and rectal, but they're not generally used in dental sedation. In addition, there are three levels of dental sedation, known as:
· Anxiolysis, or light sedation, in which sedation is used to take the anxious edge off a dental visit
· Conscious sedation in which a patient is conscious and able to respond to dentist's commands, but is generally unaware of surroundings
· Deep sedation or is very close to general anesthesia. A patient is unable to respond to commands and may require assistance in breathing, but can still be roused to consciousness.
Beyond the reduction of anxiety for any given procedure, a benefit of dental sedation is its amnesiac effect, so that patients barely remember the dental procedures. This can help greatly with dental anxiety, as any discomfort you feel during the procedure is simply not remembered, which prevents the reinforcing effect of uncomfortable experiences.
Advantages of Sedation Dentistry Options
Oral sedation is the most common method of dental sedation. It is the easiest for the dentist and the patient. In oral sedation, the patient is given a pill to take before coming to the dentist's office. By the time the patient arrives at the dentist office, the pill has taken effect, removing the patient's anxiety. In general, oral sedation is used for anxiolysis and conscious sedation.
Nitrous oxide gas has the advantage of being able to be turned on and off very quickly. With proper techniques, nitrous oxide takes effect almost immediately and clears from the system very quickly. There is never any waiting for a pill to take effect or to wear off before leaving the dentist's office. Nitrous oxide is commonly used for anxiolysis and conscious sedation, and is especially useful for procedures in which the length of the procedure is not known and cannot therefore be properly dosed using a single oral sedation dose, such as a dental implant surgery.
IV sedation is used in cases where the length of a procedure is not known. Although it has a short onset duration, it can linger in the body for a while after the IV is removed, depending on the medication used. IV sedation is the only common method capable of achieving deep sedation, although it can also be used to achieve conscious sedation.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Sedation Dentistry?
According to the National Institutes of Health, sedation dentistry is indicated for both adults and children whose dental anxiety or outright fear may interfere with treatment. It is especially encouraged in patients undergoing complicated procedures, and is generally left to the dentist to decide what methods are appropriate to the patient at hand. Normally deep sedation and general anesthesia are used only in the most extreme cases of anxiety or complex procedures, and are contraindicated for patients not in good health. If you are in generally good health but experience dental anxiety, you should talk to your dentist about what sedation dentistry options may be available to you.