Many people are anxious about dental appointments, and this causes them to keep postponing dental care making their conditions worse over time. Oral sedatives are one way to address the pain, anxiety and discomfort of dental procedures, allowing you to relax and comfortably sit through your dental procedure.
There is a range of medication developed for oral sedation, including some that have sedative (relaxing), anxiolytic ("melt" anxiety) and amnesic (make you forget) effects. Like other medications, there are important points to consider to ensure your safety during and after their use. These are described in detail below.
1. Give your dentist your full medical history
Some medicines have bad reactions with each other and shouldn't be taken together. This is why your dentist should know all about your medical history including:
- chronic or acute medical conditions you have
- all medication you're taking whether bought on prescription or over-the-counter
- home remedies, herbal and non-herbal supplements and vitamins which can mildly inhibit sedative action
- certain foods – your dentist can guide you better on this one. Certain foods/drinks can affect absorption and action of your sedatives, such as grapefruit juice which inhibits some sedation drugs
- whether you smoke or take alcohol and other recreational drugs that can affect sedative drug action
2. Take the medicine yourself
Part of the apprehension around a dental procedure comes with the thought of being poked with needles and other devices. This is why your dentist can prescribe oral sedatives which you can take yourself. Once the sedative takes effect, local anaesthetic shots can be applied to further ease your procedure without causing pain. Some of these drugs are swallowed whole while others are dissolved under the tongue (sublingual) for faster absorption.
3. Plan for your before-and-after care
There are specific precautions to be taken following oral sedation for a dental procedure, particularly if you're a smoker or have a chronic medical condition like diabetes. Some patients may need to take the drug the night before so they sleep properly and come to the appointment relaxed – talk to your dentist if you think you need prior sedation as well.
Avoid eating anything in the morning prior to a dental appointment or for a few hours before if the appointment comes later in the day – the dentist will give you an appropriate timeline based on your appointment time. Afterwards, take plenty of fluids to keep you hydrated and help flush the drugs out of your system faster.
Make arrangements to be off from work after your appointment since the sedation effect won't have worn off. In addition, you should arrange for a taxi or someone to drive you home following the appointment. Follow the exact directions regarding operation of heavy machinery following sedation to avoiding endangering yourself and others – some drugs' effects can last up to the following day after your appointment.