Fear of pain is one of the leading reasons why people avoid the dentist. Unfortunately, ignoring dental pain can lead to much greater problems including tooth decay, bone loss in the jaw and other complications. But sedation dentistry can offer a pain-free experience for even the most difficult of dental procedures.  If you have avoided a dental visit because of anxiety over pain, sedation could be your key to a healthy smile with minimal discomfort.

Dental sedation, the process by which sedatives are administered to help a patient achieve calm during or before dental procedures, make even the most difficult dental work manageable. 

In the deepest level of sedation, a patient will not be awake during the procedure.  However, if being put under is not your preference or if your procedure is not highly invasive, milder sedation is also possible. 

Unsure if sedation dentistry is right for your dental work? In this article, we will discuss what sedation dentistry is when it should be used and the benefits.

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Why You May Need Sedation Dentistry

Sedation is most often used for invasive dental procedures such as wisdom teeth extraction and root canals. However, a patient may need sedation for routine dental procedures if they have specific physical health issues or anxiety. 

Common issues that may require sedation dentistry include:

  • Anxiety and Phobia: Patients who have had negative dental experiences in the past may develop anxiety specific to dental procedures. Those with general anxiety disorders may be triggered by dental or medical experiences. Finally, some patients may have dentophobia, a fear specifically of dentists. All three conditions can stop a person from seeking dental care and all can be helped with the calming effects of sedation dentistry in Toronto. 
  • Oral Health Concerns: Patients can suffer from a variety of oral health concerns including hypersensitive nerves that will cause more pain than usual during dental work. Others may have smaller mouths than average which makes it difficult to keep their jaw open long enough for extensive dental work. Extra sensitive gums and damaged teeth may also make simple cleanings more painful. Sedation can help in each of these cases. 
  • Local Anesthetic Resistance: While most patients can get pain relief from an anesthetic injected into the gum, others will receive no benefit from this. There are some theories as to why this is, including that some people may have nerves in slightly different places than most people and that resistance is connected to other conditions. No matter what the cause though, dental sedation is the best solution for those who are resistant to the local anesthetic. 

To avoid pain and complications during your dental procedures, sedation dentistry may become necessary. Different types and levels of sedation are available depending on your specific needs. Keep reading to find out more about levels of sedation dentistry in Toronto.


Different Levels of Sedation Dentistry

Sedation dentistry has multiple levels depending on your personal needs and the type of procedure you are receiving. A consultation with your dentist will determine which type of sedation and level is best for you. 

Minimal Sedation 

Nitrous Oxide 

Minimal sedation is achieved with nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas.”  With nitrous oxide, you will still be conscious but be very relaxed and not remember much of the procedure. The gas is well tolerated by most patients and will wear off quickly. If this is the only form of sedation you receive, it is likely that you will even be well enough to drive yourself home after the procedure.  

While nitrous can make you feel very relaxed and lightheaded, it does not necessarily make you laugh as its nickname implies. And, despite tropes often found in movies and sitcoms, nitrous is not likely to make you tell secrets or embarrass yourself. 

It is mild, non-allergenic and can be used by nearly any patient. One exception would be patients who have significant breathing issues. Your dentist will be able to examine you and your medical history to determine if nitrous is safe for you.

Oral Sedatives 

Minimal sedation is also achieved with orally administered sedatives. Most often these are taken an hour or so before the procedure, however; your dentist may also prescribe you one for the night before. Taking a dose the day before helps you remain calm and get a good night’s sleep before you must come in. Your dentist will give you specific instructions on when and how to take your sedatives to maximize their benefits. 

Under oral sedation, you will not remember much of the procedure. Your ability to speak is also likely to be compromised while under the effects of the sedative. Unlike nitrous, oral sedation will not allow you to drive yourself home after the procedure as the effects can last for several hours but will be completely gone by the next day or even that night. 

Moderate Sedation

A combination using BOTH nitrous oxide with oxygen AND oral sedatives. 

Deep Sedation – Anesthesia 

Anesthesia, sedation that is administered through an IV, comes in two levels. The first is often referred to as “twilight” anesthesia. With this form, the patient is very close to being unconscious but can still be woken up. This is the highest form of sedation that can be performed in a dental office but does require a special certification.

General anesthesia is the highest level of dental sedation and renders the patient completely unconscious. This type of sedation is typically reserved for only the most extensive oral surgery and for those who cannot benefit from any other form of sedation. 

For general anesthesia, a patient will need to have the procedure in a special clinic or even a hospital. This allows for your vital signs to be monitored and for appropriate medical staff to be on hand to help with any complications.


Is Dental Sedation the Same as Taking a Painkiller? 

In short, no. While you will not feel or be aware of pain when under sedation, sedation will not actually stop the pain. Sedation’s job is to help a patient relax before and during a procedure but other pain medicines or local anesthetic may be needed to control pain after. 


What are the Benefits of Sedation Dentistry?

The types of sedation in Toronto and throughout Canada offer multiple benefits. While it is not required for every procedure, it can be very useful for many patients who are anxious or have extensive dental needs.

Helps Manage Fear and Anxiety

Anxiety is a condition that can stem from multiple sources and dental procedures are a common trigger. For many, a trip to the dentist can cause crippling fear and anxiety that prevents them from seeking help until the problem gets much worse. 

Sedation cannot only help with anxiety that patients experience in the dentist chair but also before the procedure. Anti-anxiety medications can be used in conjunction with sedatives to help patients manage fear before they even get in the dentist’s office. 

Your dentist will be able to prescribe the right mix of anti-anxiety and sedation methods necessary to ease your fears and discomfort. This includes fears and anxiety stemming from phobias and past trauma associated with dental work. 

It Helps to Reduce Gag Reflex

Everyone has a different level of gag reflex from nearly nonexistent to severe. For those with a very sensitive gag reflex, it may not only be uncomfortable to have dental work, but even dangerous as it may cause a patient to move suddenly during a procedure. Sedation will paralyze the gag reflex and allow a dentist to work without issue.

Increased Pain Tolerance 

Sensitive nerves, other oral health concerns and low pain threshold may make dental procedures more difficult for some patients. While sedatives do not directly stop the pain, they work in the brain to help you stop sensing it. 

Faster Dental Work in Fewer Sessions

Sedation not only makes dental work easier for the patient, but it can also make it faster.  Without sedation, a patient will often need to take breaks to rinse their mouths or readjust to be more comfortable. This can slow down a dentist’s work and sedation eliminates this issue. 

Additionally, sedation will often allow a patient to undergo more dental work at one time since there is little to no discomfort. For complex, multi-appointment procedures can significantly reduce your time in the dentist’s chair. 


Final Thoughts on Sedation Dentistry in Toronto

While not every dental visit or patient requires sedation, it can have many benefits and uses. When used in conjunction with local anesthetic and other pain relievers, sedation can make for a calm and relaxing dental experience.

This not only helps patients who are facing invasive dental procedures but also those who have anxiety and phobias about going to the dentist. For many, sedation is the solution to conquering fear associated with dental visits and getting the medical care they need to prevent more significant oral problems from developing. 

Each level of sedation has been proven safe and effective over multiple decades of use. Nitrous, the mildest form of sedation, is well tolerated by most patients and its effects begin to wear off as soon as the flow of gas is stopped. 

To learn more about how sedation dentistry in Toronto can help you manage anxiety and pain, contact Singer Dental Care in Ajax.  Our experienced and knowledgeable team understands how anxiety can prevent patients from seeking dental care and we’re here to help! Call today to schedule a consultation.

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