How Safe is Sedation Dentistry?

While it may seem being sedated during a dental visit could be risky, that impression couldn’t be farther from the truth. One misconception that leads to worries about sedation dentistry is that it’s like undergoing anesthesia before surgery. In reality, it’s more like taking a prescription sedative for most patients.

For patients who have fears or anxiety about dental work, sedation before procedures actually makes the experience safer and more comfortable. If you struggle with going to the dentist because of worry, fear or anxiety, or if you’ve had negative past experiences with dental work, gentle sedation can help. Other reasons to have sedation dentistry or conscious sedation might include having phobias of needles or drills, having a poor gag reflex or a resistance to anesthetics. Sedation can also help patients who need long, in-depth dental treatments or who have a limited amount of time and need a lot of dental work performed.

At MPDG, we also offer sedation to help children who are very fearful at the dentist’s office, or who have to undergo long dental procedures and may not be able to keep still. Parents are often understandably concerned about having their child sedated. Your MPDG dentist will be happy to talk with you and answer any questions about the safety and efficacy of sedation. For most patients, including children, it is a very safe and comfortable experience.

Types of Sedation

Dental sedation can be done in a few different ways. Choosing a method depends on the patient, what kind of dental work is needed, and how long a procedure might take.

Oral conscious sedation is what is usually referred to when we talk about sedation dentistry. This type of sedation is done with oral medications taken before the dental appointment. The type and amount of sedative medication depends on the patient, and is carefully personalized to ensure the right amount of sedation. These may also include anti-anxiety medication if that is the reason for the sedation.

This method results in a relaxed, half-awake state during the treatment. Patients can still respond to directions from the dentist and won’t be unconscious. With conscious sedation, you’ll need someone to take you to and from the appointment, as driving is not possible for the patient.

Nitrous oxide sedation is another choice, best suited for simpler or shorter treatments, as its effects don’t last as long. It’s especially good for children who may need sedation during routine appointments. Sometimes called laughing gas, it’s administered through a breathing mask or tube, and customized precisely to suit each individual patient. Patients don’t fall asleep during nitrous oxide sedation, and can usually go back to work or drive themselves home afterward.

Risks of Sedation

The safety of our patients is our top concern when using any kind of sedation or anesthetic. We adhere closely to all medical guidelines for amounts of sedative and techniques used to administer them. There are, however, a few factors that might require we avoid the use of sedation for a specific patient. Some lifestyle habits, like smoking and drinking, may affect sedation, as do some medications and health conditions, like sleep apnea. A thorough health history is taken to ensure every patient’s safety.

During sedation, we carefully monitor heart rate, blood pressure and other vital signs, to make sure sedation is safe and effective throughout dental treatment.

Children can sometimes have difficulty dealing with the aftereffects of sedation, which may include dizziness, sleepiness and nausea. We always recommend that children who undergo sedation dentistry do not go back to school or daycare afterward, and that they are monitored by a parent or responsible adult.

We’re also happy to answer any questions or explain steps of sedation and monitoring to patients who are curious about the process. Our staff places the highest priority on making each and every patient feel comfortable with their dental care, and sedation dentistry offers us options for doing just that. Get in touch with your MPDG dentist with any questions or concerns you have about sedation.