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A lot of people feel anxiety, worry or even pure terror before a dental appointment, even if they’re just going in for teeth cleaning. Some are so afraid that they avoid checkups even when they have tooth or gum problems, which get worse if they’re neglected. Sedation dentistry is a common solution for dealing with dental anxiety.

What Is Sedation Dentistry?

In sedation dentistry, medication is used to help anxious patients relax and feel at ease during a dental procedure. It’s also known as “sleep dentistry”, but doesn’t always involve general anesthesia. The level of sedation depends upon the severity of your fear as well as how invasive the dental procedure will be.

Sedation levels include:

  1. Minimal sedation, where you’re awake but feel relaxed.
  2. Moderate sedation, where you’re conscious but may not remember much of the procedure, and speech may be slurred.
  3. Deep sedation, where you’re barely conscious. You may even fall asleep but the dentist can wake you with a gentle shake.
  4. General anesthesia, where you’re completely unconscious and will not awaken until the medication wears off.

Your dentist may use one of these types of sedation:

  1. Inhaled sedation, where you breathe in nitrous oxide or “laughing gas”.
  2. Oral sedation, where you take a pill about an hour before the procedure to help you feel relaxed or drowsy.
  3. IV sedation, where medication is injected into your veins and controlled by the dentist.

Oral sedation is the most common choice, and can be used for minimal to moderate sedation. It’s generally combined with a local anesthetic to prevent pain or discomfort.

What to Let Your Dentist Know before Oral Sedation Dentistry

While oral sedation dentistry is safe, you need to provide your dentist with a complete health history in advance. Here’s what to include:

  • Any past and current medical issues and treatment you’ve received, including prescription medication.
  • Over-the-counter, herbal or alternative medications/supplements/remedies you’re taking. These may react with oral sedatives, so give your dentist a full list.
  • What you’ve eaten in the last few days. This may seem unimportant, but certain foods such as grapefruit can interfere with the medication.
  • Lifestyle factors such as smoking or alcohol consumption, which can also affect the absorption of medication used for oral sedation dentistry.

Ensuring Your Safety and Planning for Your Dental Appointment

Here are some additional tips to remember if you’ve decided on oral sedation:

  • Be clear about your medical history, especially problems like diabetes, so medication and aftercare can be customized accordingly.
  • Unless your dentist tells you otherwise, avoid eating or drinking for at least 6 hours before your dental appointment.
  • Don’t eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice for 72 hours before and after oral sedation dentistry.
  • Get someone to drive you to and from the clinic, and avoid operating heavy machinery or driving till the sedative wears off.
  • Take the day off from work if you’re getting oral sedation, or at least half a day after a quick procedure.
  • If your dentist suggests it, take oral sedation medication the night before to make sure you’re well-rested.

If you have any questions about oral sedation dentistry or other methods of dealing with dental anxiety, contact the team at Joshua Hong DDS now!