Although dentists take great care to cause the least possible discomfort when they do their jobs, our mouth are full of delicate nerve endings. Some procedures are invasive, and therefore quite painful.
Modern dental techniques and equipment are not the crude instruments of torture they used to be, but some people still automatically associate a visit to the dentist with great pain. They may require some level of sedation dentistry to allow for teeth cleaning and examination.
The lowest level of sedation available is achieved by administering nitrous oxide (N2O), often called laughing gas. You just lie back and breathe the nitrous oxide through a mask over your nose while the dentist works on your mouth. Laughing gas will not make you near-hysterical as it’s portrayed in the movies. It does make people feel good, so you’ll no doubt smile, but you won’t experience forced, out-of-control laughter.
What you’re breathing is actually a mix of nitrous and oxygen. That’s because nitrous oxide displaces oxygen in your blood. This is acceptable only for a very short-term use. Therefore, dentists use a mixture of about 40 percent oxygen and 60 percent nitrous oxide. That means what you experience will not be as intense as someone who inhales only nitrous oxide, but that cannot be continued without suffocating. Your body needs oxygen to live. The mix of the two generally makes people feel relaxed and dreamy, calm and detached. You remain awake and can feel the dentist working inside your mouth, but you really don’t care.
With this level of sedation, the dentist gives you a drug, usually Halcion, which is related to Valium. It’s the brand name of triazolam. It’s a sedative-hypnotic often used to help people with problems sleeping. It helps to calm your brain. Dentists generally give you a small dose about an hour before the procedure. They give it to you to relax and calm you, not put you to sleep, although that could happen, especially if you’re tired.
Intravenous Moderate Sedation
The dentist uses a needle to inject the sedative directly into your vein, so it goes to work much more quickly than it would if you swallowed a tablet. These days, one of the most commonly used IV drugs is the benzodiazepines class of drugs. Midazolam (Versed) is the most often used. It acts more quickly and yet wears off faster than older kinds such as Valium and Ativan, though some dentists use those. Propofol is also used for deeper levels of sedation and for anesthesia. Some dentists add fentanyl to the mix, because that drug adds to the sedative effect.
Deep Sedation/General Anesthesia
At this level, you are rendered totally or almost totally unconscious just as though you were undergoing surgery.
Come to see Dr. Urzula Barrios by calling 519.767.6453 now to make an appointment. If you’re nervous, she will help you with sedation dentistry using nitrous oxide or oral sedation.