Don’t let dental anxiety keep you from getting the care you need and want. Our dentists understand that some patients are so afraid of going to the dentist that they put off treatment until a problem becomes so bad that it can no longer be ignored. That’s why we offer our patients a variety of sedation dentistry options. We are dedicated to helping you remain as comfortable and relaxed as possible during procedures so you visit us as often as needed. Let us help you smile away your dental fears!
What Is Sleep Dentistry?
Sleep dentistry, also called sedation dentistry, offers anxious patients a comfortable environment in which to receive treatment. “Sleep dentistry” doesn’t mean that all patients are actually asleep or unconscious. With the exception of those individuals under general anesthesia, patients are generally awake but relaxed. Sleep dentistry uses medication to help patients relax and feel sleepy during dental procedures. Sedation is not pain medication — you may require local anesthesia to help increase your comfort in the dental chair.
Sleep Dentistry Methods
Breathing a mixture of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and oxygen through a mask helps you relax. Nitrous oxide numbs pain and induces a light-headed or pleasurable feeling throughout your body to help relieve anxiety. The sedation wears off quickly, so you can drive yourself home after your dental procedure. This is also a great solution if you have a sensitive gag reflex.
This type of anti-anxiety medication, taken by mouth, can make patients so groggy that some fall asleep during the procedure. Each of these prescribed medications lasts a different amount of time, so the dosage varies according to the treatment for which it is prescribed. Patients under oral sedatives are awakened with a little prodding.
Intravenous (IV) Sedation
The sedative, an anti-anxiety drug, is administered through a vein, and it works quickly to induce a state of deep relaxation. During the procedure, your dentist and on-site anesthesiologist adjust the level of sedation as needed. Afterward, you may not recall much, if anything, of what happened between the times when the drug kicks in until it wears off.
General Anesthesia (or Deep Sedation)
For more complex treatments, deep sedation drugs reduce consciousness and are used to relieve both pain and anxiety. Under these medications, the patient becomes almost or completely unconscious, or deeply asleep. Patients cannot be awakened under general anesthesia; the effects must wear off or be reversed with additional medication.
Our practice utilizes the services of Horizon Anesthesia. Highly qualified and experienced board-certified anesthesiologists from Fairfax Hospital bring their technical expertise and state-of-the-art services to our dental office. With their help, we provide a comfortable, safe dental experience for our patients. While the Horizon anesthesiologists manage and monitor your sedation throughout the procedure, our dentists can remain totally focused on providing you with the highest quality dental treatment.
Local Anesthesia During Treatment
After our dentist applies a numbing medication, or topical anesthetic, in the area of the mouth where he or she will be working, the local anesthetic is injected. Local anesthesia works by blocking the nerves that sense or transmit pain — if there is any pain associated with your procedure, you will not feel it. Injectable anesthetics are typically used for filling cavities, treating gum disease or preparing a tooth for a crown. Our office prides itself on staying up to date with injection techniques as well as utilizing the latest products such as buffering solutions to administer less painful injections.
Post-Treatment Pain Relief
Analgesics relieve pain after dental treatments. Non-narcotic pain relievers are commonly used after dental treatment; they include aspirin, acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Narcotic analgesics such as opioids are only prescribed for severe pain; they act on the central nervous system to relieve pain.
Our practice is committed to helping patients reduce anxiety — from the time the appointment is made until after treatment is completed. We let you know what to expect during each phase of your exam, diagnosis and treatment. We encourage you to ask any questions you may have. Our goal is make all our patients as comfortable as possible during every visit.
We use sedation to help patients relieve anxiety during dental procedures. Sedation is safe when administered by dentists who have been trained properly, but there is always some risk with any medication. Please discuss sedation thoroughly with your dentist before any treatment. Your dentist will discuss your overall health, the procedure, allergies and your anxiety level before you decide — together — on a specific sedation solution.
What about children? We understand your reservations about sedation for children. Most dentists, including those in our practice, administer nitrous oxide to help children tolerate dental procedures. Our team, including Horizon Anesthesia, is more than capable of adapting anesthesia methods to the age and weight of each child. Please discuss your concerns with your child’s dentist.
We understand the risks and benefits of sedation and anesthesia, and we strive to determine exactly the right solution for each patient — from young children to senior citizens.