Oral sedation dentistry

Oral sedation is one of three methods dentists commonly use for sedation dentistry procedures. These sedation methods help calm anxious or phobic patients during dental procedures. Unlike intravenous sedation and nitrous oxide sedation, oral sedation is administered by the patient before the dental procedure. Patients may take the sedative pill hours before their dental procedure is scheduled to begin, reducing anxiety leading up to their procedure and during the procedure itself. The sedative of choice is some type of benzodiazepine. Common name brand benzodiazepines include Xanax, Valium, and Halcion. These medications decrease activity in the fear and anxiety control centers in the brain, inducing a state of calm and relaxation so that your dentist can perform necessary dental procedures without triggering your anxiety or phobia.

Other common types of sedation include intravenous (IV) sedation and inhaled nitrous oxide sedation. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, including oral sedation. While IV sedation and nitrous oxide are both effective immediately or very shortly after being administered, oral sedation’s effects may take an hour or longer to kick in. While this may be viewed as a disadvantage, it can also be advantageous if you begin to feel anxiety leading up to your dental appointment, as many people do. Because oral sedation takes longer to go into effect, arriving at the proper dosage may also take longer; effects are also determined, at least in part, by a patient’s metabolism, so it’s difficult to know in advance how much time it will take different dosages to begin to work. As with any type of sedation, you will need to get a ride home from your dental appointment. With oral sedation, however, because you administer your medication in advance of the appointment, you will also not be able to drive to your dental appointment and will need to secure a ride in both directions. Oral sedation is very easy to administer and can be administered at home. This eliminates any potential issues with needles, including bruising or bleeding, since oral sedation is delivered in convenient pill form. Your dentist will prescribe the pill, and you will be directed to ingest the pill in advance of your appointment so that you feel relaxed by the time you arrive at the dentist’s office.

Many people who have anxiety about dental procedures also have anxiety about needles, which are used in administering IV sedation. Oral sedation eliminates this fear, as no needles are used. Oral sedation in the proper dosage can cause patients to have an amnesia-like experience in which they entirely or nearly forget what happened during their dental procedure. This is considered a benefit of oral sedation, as patients are less likely to attach anxious or phobic thinking to an experience they cannot recall. Because oral sedatives, and all frequently used benzodiazepines, require strict FDA regulation, oral sedation is considered one of the safest components of sedation dentistry. Although you will be relaxed and calm, and possibly drowsy, while under the effects of oral sedation, you will remain awake throughout your dental procedure. This will make the procedure easier, overall, for both you and your dentist, as you will be able to effectively respond to your dentist’s instructions during your procedure.

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