Do you know the difference between inhalation and oral conscious sedation?

Be informed, get treatment, and enjoy healthy, beautiful teeth!

You heard last week that my patient Travis used oral conscious sedation to help overcome his fear of dental treatment, but you did not learn why that treatment was right for Travis’s specific situation. It is important to match your needs with the correct treatment or combination of treatments. In order to choose the right treatment you need to be fully informed about each type of sedation treatment. The first and most important thing to know is that everyone reacts differently to different sedative drugs.

There are many factors, including your physical structure, mental mindset and willingness to let the drugs do their job.

Inhalation (nitrous oxide) Sedation

The first treatment which I suggested for my dental phobic patient Travis was nitrous oxide to help him relax while we cleared some cavities and placed crowns on a few teeth. The procedure involves placing a tube over the patient’s nose, as they breathe naturally and inhale the gas. After about 5 minutes, patients feel pain begin to fade, and they become calm and happy, sometimes even to the point of giggling (hence the name “laughing gas”). The patient is completely conscious and alert, but they simply care less about things that would usually disturb or frighten them. After the patient feels comfortable enough, we can administer a local anesthetic with a needle to numb the affected area.

Travis was reluctant to try laughing gas for two reasons. The first was that he didn’t want to be conscious of the sounds, smells and sights associated with the dental treatment. He was frightened that being completely awake, he would have a panic attack. Travis needed something a little stronger to get him over his anxiety. The second problem was that masks, tubes, and gases of any kind made Travis feel very uncomfortable. He asked if there was any other way we could make him feel relaxed.

Oral Sedation

So we had decided that Travis would benefit from a dosage of IV sedation to make him comfortable with his dental procedure, but we needed a way to make him comfortable with the sight of the needle that would be placed in his arm to administer the IV sedative. I prescribed him a pill, which he could simply take at home about an hour before his appointment. The anti-anxiety drug (in this case Diazepam, commonly known as Valium) made Travis feel happy, calm, relaxed and a little drowsy. He needed a friend to drive him to and from the office, but when he arrived, he was feeling fine. He didn’t mind sitting down in the chair, or experiencing the IV sedation. The oral sedation was a great anxiety-reducing precursor to his dental procedure.

By now you should be pretty clear on what types of patients require what level of sedation. For minor fears and simple procedures, nitrous oxide or an anti-anxiety pill usually does the trick. If you’d like to discuss a treatment that might help you overcome dental phobia, please schedule an appointment for a free consultation.

Next week we will talk about the cost and process for sedation dentistry. We’ll go over financial planning, and some more of the details of the procedure.

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