The Truth Behind Three Sedation Dentistry Misconceptions
Misinformation about sedation dentistry is everywhere. These safe, reliable methods for helping patients feel relaxed and comfortable during their dental procedure have been around for years (since the Civil War era, in the case of nitrous oxide). Yet, thanks to hearsay on the Internet, many people are under the incorrect assumption that dental sedation is dangerous. Dr. R. Terry Councill and Dr. Jonathan Glass believe strongly in the safety and effectiveness of dental sedation and wanted to clear up a few misconceptions they commonly hear from patients.
What is Sedation Dentistry?
In the simplest terms, dental sedation refers to protocols for inducing a state of relaxation in a patient. At Councill Dental Group, our dentists are licensed to administer nitrous oxide, which induces mild relaxation; oral sedation (also called “pill sedation”); and IV sedation, which administers sedatives intravenously. For a more in depth overview of sedation dentistry, we encourage you to visit our main Sedation Dentistry page.
Misconception 1: Sedation Dentistry Isn’t Safe
Nitrous oxide has been used since the mid-19th century to provide a mild sense of relaxation and is considered completely safe, even for children. Dental sedation medications used in IV and oral sedation belong to a category of drugs called antianxiolytics, which literally means “anti-anxiety.” The types of antianxiolytics used in dentistry have gone through numerous, rigorous clinical trials and have been approved by the Food & Drug Administration for most patients. It’s worth noting, though, that patients who have recently undergone certain types of surgery, or who take certain medications, have to obtain clearance for sedation dentistry from their medical doctor.
As an added layer of safety, your dentist and his assisting staff closely monitor your vital signs while you’re sedated, making sure that your blood oxygen, blood pressure, and breathing remain stable.
Misconception 2: Dental Sedation Puts You to Sleep
All too often, people confuse sedation dentistry with general anesthesia. General anesthesia, which is administered by a licensed anesthesiologist in hospital settings prior to surgery, will put you to sleep (render you unconscious and unresponsive). Oral sedation and IV sedation, on the other hand, place you in a twilight state. You are not in a true “sleep state” and you will be able to respond to your dentist’s questions and instructions (for example, “How are you feeling?” or “I need you to lean back in the chair”).
Misconception 3: Sedation Dentistry is Only for Fearful Patients
It’s true that most people who undergo sedation dentistry do so because feelings of nervousness, anxiety, and fear that make receiving dental care an extremely unpleasant experience. However, dental fear and anxiety aren’t the only reasons a patient may require sedation. Other situations that may call for sedatives include:
- Patients with sensitive gag reflexes who cannot get through a dental appointment without gagging excessively (this can be very unpleasant for the patient, and impede the dentist’s ability to work).
- Patients with physical impairments who have difficulty sitting or reclining for long periods of time.
- Patients with neurological disorders, such as severe autism, who have difficulty cooperating with treatment.