Table of Contents
For many of us, a dental appointment is no problem–even when there’s a needle or drill involved. But for some patients, a visit to the dentist causes severe anxiety or disruptive behavior. Sedation dentistry is an excellent option for anxious adults, children and special needs patients. It’s also a valuable tool for long and complex dental work. The good news is that you typically don’t need general anesthesia for effective sedation dentistry. Nitrous oxide allows patients to remain awake yet relaxed while their dentist performs a procedure.
What Is Sedation Dentistry?
Sedation dentistry involves medication to help patients relax and overcome anxiety during dental procedures. Sedation dentistry can involve general anesthesia. However, this tends to be used more with oral surgeons addressing complex cases. Most dentists rely on conscious sedation, where the patient remains awake during the procedure. Conscious sedation can be administered with oral or intravenous medication and can be minimal, moderate, or deep. Many family dentists work with minimal sedation using nitrous oxide gas. Your dentist uses inhaled nitrous oxide to put you in a relaxed state during your appointment. You’ll still need a local anesthetic like Novocaine for pain. However, the needle is not as daunting for anxious patients under minimal sedation. Your dentist receives special training to administer nitrous oxide.
What Is Nitrous Oxide?
Formerly known as laughing gas, nitrous oxide has made a comeback in the dental care and medical world. It allows patients to relax while remaining aware of their surroundings and communicating with their dentist. Your dentist places a mask over your nose and mouth as you inhale nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is a colorless, odorless gas used for surgical and dental procedures for more than 150 years. According to the American Dental Association, it’s the most common gas-based anesthetic in the world. The ADA reports that 70 percent of dentists who perform sedation dentistry use nitrous oxide. Unlike other forms of sedation, many adult patients can drive themselves home after treatment.
Who Can Benefit From Sedation Dentistry?
Nitrous oxide allows your family dentist to work safely and effectively on patients who might otherwise be challenging or disruptive. You remain awake and able to communicate while your dentist performs the procedure. Candidates for sedation dentistry include:
- People with dental phobia. If you have an extreme fear of the dentist, it can impact your ability to get needed care. Dental phobia can result from fear of needles, drills, blood, or choking. It can also stem from family attitudes or past dental trauma. Around 12 percent of US adults report extreme fear of the dentist.
- Patients with multiple cavities or undergoing complex procedures like extractions and root canals. Pain and stress can build up during more prolonged treatments, even for patients who don’t generally have anxiety about dental care.
- Children who have fear or anxiety or are unable to cooperate.
- Patients of all ages with special needs who have anxiety, become disruptive or have trouble staying still.
- Patients who have a strong gag reflex or a low tolerance for pain.
Is Nitrous Oxide Sedation Safe?
Your dentist must receive special training to administer sedation safely and to handle medical emergencies. Nitrous oxide delivery systems also contain numerous safety features, including alarms, nationally standardized color coding, and fail-safe mechanisms for oxygen intake. Nitrous oxide is also safe for children in most cases. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and the American Dental Association have collaborated to develop high standards for sedation dentistry in children. Dentists receive training in administering the appropriate dosage for your child’s age and weight. At Hall Family Dentistry, we don’t want fear or anxiety to keep anyone out of the chair or cause patients to avoid needed procedures. Nitrous oxide is a vital tool in meeting the needs of these patients. Dr. Hall has extensive experience in the use of nitrous oxide sedation in both children and adults. Talk with our office if sedation dentistry might be a good fit for you or your child.