Why You Should Ask Your Dentist About Sedation

If visiting a dentist makes you feel nervous, uneasy, or downright afraid, you’re not alone. Dental anxiety, or dentophobia, is a shockingly common fear that people of all ages experience.

An estimated 36% of adults have dentophobia, and roughly 3% of these individuals avoid the dentist entirely because of the severity of their fear. Even people who never miss a dental appointment may still have low-level dentophobia, which we often refer to as dental anxiety.

The symptoms of dental anxiety are usually quite apparent. You may feel anxious, nervous, or fearful about an upcoming dental appointment. You may even skip or reschedule visits when the stress becomes too much. Many people also have trouble sleeping the night before a dental procedure. The most severe symptom is avoiding the dentist until a severe toothache forces you to get help.

Sedation dentistry can be a powerful tool for managing all levels of dental anxiety or dentophobia. Here are 3 things you should know if you’re curious about this very useful comfort dentistry service.

1. You’ll feel relaxed and more at ease during your procedure.

Just because you can get through a dental appointment while feeling anxious or nervous doesn’t mean you should feel as though there’s no other option. Simply wanting to feel more relaxed and comfortable during an appointment is more than enough reason to ask your dentist about sedation dentistry.

Being able to relax during visits isn’t purely a mental benefit either. Light sedation eases tension in your body, including your neck, shoulders, and jaw. These areas of the body naturally tense up when a person feels stressed or anxious, most especially when their mouth has to be held open during a dental visit. If you feel muscle soreness in these areas after a visit, this could be a sign that you’re seizing up without realizing it.

Sedation dentistry can also be really helpful for people with physical conditions that make it difficult to sit still for a long period of time.

2. You can decide how much sedation you’d like to experience.

Sedation dentistry is a versatile service that you and your dentist can tailor to the severity of anxiety you’re experiencing. There are two forms of sedation available for patients with dental anxiety.

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is perfect for helping people with mild to moderate dental anxiety. It’s non-invasive and quite a pleasant experience. Your dentist will place a small mask over your nose and begin with 100% oxygen, gradually adding nitrous oxide into the mix until you feel comfortable and relaxed. Nitrous oxide has a slightly sweet smell and makes most people feel light and happy.

The strength of nitrous oxide is easily controlled, and your dentist will ask you how you’re feeling throughout your appointment. If your anxiety builds, slightly increasing the nitrous oxide can help, and if you’re feeling a little too sleepy or dizzy, it will be turned down.

One of the best things about nitrous oxide is that there are no lasting effects. Once the gas is removed and you’ve breathed in pure oxygen for a few moments, you’ll feel back to normal and can even drive yourself home.

Oral Sedation

Oral conscious sedation is a step up from nitrous oxide and is most commonly used if a person has moderate to severe dental anxiety or dentophobia. Your dentist will prescribe a safe sedative medication you can pick up from your pharmacy and give you instructions on when to take it. Usually, you’ll take the medication 30 to 45 minutes before your appointment to ensure it’s fully in effect before the procedure begins.

Most oral sedation medications will make you feel groggy and tired, and it’s completely normal to close your eyes and doze off during your appointment. Depending on the strength of your medication, you’ll likely only vaguely remember bits and pieces of the appointment, almost like a dream. When your dentist wakes you up, it can feel as though only 10 minutes have passed.

Oral sedatives do linger in your system, though, so it’s important to have someone drive you home after your visit, even if you think you feel awake.

3. With time, you can overcome and control your dental anxiety.

Many people with dentophobia or severe dental anxiety assume that their struggle is something they’re stuck living with, especially if the fear developed in early childhood. In reality, phobias of all types can be effectively treated through a trifecta of talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and exposure therapy.

Finding a mental health professional you feel comfortable with is the first step toward gaining control over your dental anxiety. They can help you to understand what event may have led you to develop a fear response to dental appointments, and give you tools to help you manage your anxiety symptoms (e.g., CBT techniques).

Exposure therapy is an especially important phase in learning to control your anxiety, and sedation dentistry complements it very well. Using a mild form of sedation during visits, such as nitrous oxide, can help you feel more relaxed and able to use CBT tools, like mental self-talk, to create a more positive experience. With each new positive experience, you’ll gain more self-confidence, which further aids in fighting against anxiety and fear.

Over time, you’ll no longer dread dental appointments and may even begin to look forward to your routine checkups and cleanings. Many patients graduate to no longer needing sedation dentistry, while others may still opt for light nitrous oxide during longer treatment appointments.

The dentist you choose impacts your relationship with dental anxiety.

A great dentist can help you work through your dental anxiety by providing a safe environment that prioritizes your needs as a patient. Ada Smile Place practices advanced comfort dentistry, which includes safe and effective sedation dentistry in Ada, OK. Our team recognizes how challenging dentophobia can be and is dedicated to helping patients with all levels of dental anxiety.

Schedule a consultation today to learn more about dental sedation and how it can transform your relationship with professional dental care.