Is Sedation Dentistry Safe?

Author: Dr. Reem Kidess | Posted on with 0 comments

Of course, if you’re anxious about seeking dental care or having a procedure, you are likely asking whether sedation dentistry is safe. This is one of the most common questions that we get from patients who experience anxiety when seeking dental care. The quick answer is yes, sedation dentistry is generally safe, but it is important to know that not all methods will be a good fit for everyone.

Sedation dentistry is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It takes additional training for a dentist to effectively use and administer. While many dental offices can offer basic sedation options, they may not have the training or ability to go beyond basic.

It’s also important to understand that while sedation dentistry is generally safe in most instances, it is critical to review your health and medical history with your treating provider to ensure your safety.

Which Sedation Options are the Safest?

Which sedation dentistry options are the safest will mostly depend on the individual receiving care and that person’s health status. A board-certified sedation dentist can review your safest and most effective options and create a treatment  plan that will work for you. There are generally three categories of sedation: inhalation, oral, and IV sedation.

  • Inhalation Sedation – Nitrous Oxide – Laughing Gas (N2O)

Nitrous Oxide is generally considered one of the safest options for sedation dentistry. Nitrous Oxide is administered through the inhalation method using a nosepiece or canula. The dentist controls the airflow. Also known as “laughing gas,” inhalation sedation is a form of light sedation and is quickly reversible. It is often utilized to treat lesser degrees of anxiety.

Inhalation sedation can be used as a stand-alone or in conjunction with a secondary form of sedation. Laughing gas is also commonly used for children with dental anxiety or children who are receiving more than just a minor treatment or routine cleaning.

While it is considered one of the safest sedation methods, it is still important to discuss your health history and current health status with your treatment provider before deciding if this type of sedation is right for you. While rare, Nitrous Oxide can cause health complications for patients with severe chronic B12 deficiency or high homocysteine levels, including those caused by a genetic condition called MTHFR (specific polymorphisms). Therefore, your sedation dentist will carefully monitor you for any signs of distress and, if present, immediately discontinues use and administer oxygen to reverse its effects. 

  • Oral Sedation – Medication

Oral sedation is medication taken orally to help relieve a patient’s anxiety. After reviewing your health history, anxiety medication can be prescribed by a physician or a dentist. Oral sedation medication for anxiety can be a very effective method for many, and like inhalation sedation, it is generally very tolerated and safe for most people. The main drawback of oral sedation is that its side effects cannot be reversed as quickly as with inhalation. Also, certain medications may not be as effective from person to person. Patient A may also metabolize oral sedation medication differently than Patient B. For example, it works well for Patient A, but it wears off too quickly for Patient B.

Oral sedation is administered easily by swallowing a pill with water. With oral sedation, it is also up to the patient to remember to fill the prescription (if there’s a prescription) and take the medication at the right time before the appointment so that it takes effect by the time they get called back for treatment. While the patient is still conscious, this form of sedation will require someone to transport them to and from the appointment.

Even with the considerations above, oral sedation can be very effective and safe, either as a stand-alone method or in combination with another form of sedation.

  • IV Sedation – IV Medication

IV sedation is another sedation method requiring the dentist to be certified and licensed. IV sedation uses an IV drip to administer the sedation medication directly into the patient’s bloodstream. One of the benefits of IV sedation is that the dentist will have complete control over dosing and can discontinue the medication if it becomes necessary before the procedure is over. 

While a person given IV sedation is usually still conscious at a lowered capacity, the medication will have  an amnesia effect in that the patient may remember very little, if anything, from the procedure. For this reason, IV sedation can be a good choice for patients who experience very high to extreme forms of dental anxiety, those who cannot use either of the other types of sedation for one reason or another, or for anyone who needs extensive work done. IV sedation also helps patients who require extensive work by consolidating that work into one or maybe two sessions instead of multiple appointments.

During an IV sedation appointment, the dentist will closely monitor the patient’s vitals throughout the procedure. In addition, the dentist may adjust the IV medication to find the lowest effective dose and thus, further reducing sedation risks.

Sedation Dentistry is Safe for Just About Everyone

Providing a health inventory to your dentist and discussing the options, benefits, and drawbacks will help your dentist determine the safest, least invasive, and most effective way to provide relief during your appointment and procedure. In some cases where mild anxiety is involved, sedation may not even be necessary. Some patients may find distraction helpful, either by watching something on the television or by listening to music through earphones/earbuds.

Are You Ready to Explore Your Options?

Dr. Reem Kidess serves patients in the Scottsdale/Paradise Valley area. If you are looking for a compassionate dentist and staff to help you with your sedation needs, we would love the opportunity to meet with you and see how we might help.

We invite you to scroll to the bottom of this page to schedule a consultation, or you can call the office to speak with one of our compassionate team members. Either way, we look forward to hearing from you!

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