You've been thinking about improving your dental health by visiting the dentist for routine cleanings. However, the thought of being in a dental clinic with all the sharp needles and drills gives you anxiety. If you're such a person, you are not alone! Research indicates that dental fear affects at least one in six adults in Australia. This doesn't mean that you should avoid visiting the dentist.
Sedation is an option for individuals who suffer anxiety and phobia when they think about visiting a dental clinic. Keep reading to learn more about sedation and whether it's a suitable choice for you.
Sedation Dentistry Techniques
Sedation refers to the administration of drugs to relax or render a person unconscious during a dental procedure. There are various forms of sedation which include the following:
- General anesthesia where the entire body is numbed, and you are unconscious throughout the process
- Laughing gas (nitrous oxide) which relaxes and leaves you conscious
- Oral sedatives which work like the laughing gas to relax you but leave you awake during the treatment
The form of sedation to be administered depends on various factors such as your health, level of anxiety and the type of procedure. For example, for patients with heart-related diseases, general anesthesia may not be recommended as it increases the risk of increased blood pressure, heart attack or stroke.
Choosing the Best Sedation Method
For routine checkups and dental cleanings, your dentist may recommend mild sedation options such as the laughing gas or oral sedatives. These relax you enough to ensure you get through the procedure. If you're anxious about visiting the dental clinic for administration of the sedative, the dentist can recommend you take oral sedatives.
You can take oral sedatives hours or a day before the procedure. However, note that if you opt for oral sedatives, you need someone to drive you to and from the dental appointment. Other types of sedation also leave you feeling woozy, and you should come with a friend or relative to take you home afterwards.
Non-Sedation Relaxation Options
You don't have to be sedated to get your teeth cleaned. If you're not too anxious, you may consider local anesthesia. This is where the dentist administers lidocaine, a local anesthetic, to the area they will work on. The drug numbs the area, ensuring you don't feel a thing throughout the cleaning.
Since a dental cleaning procedure isn't painful, other relaxation techniques such as the following can help you avoid sedation and local anesthesia altogether:
- Come along with a friend or loved one who's not afraid of dentists
- Distract yourself by, for example, listening to music or podcasts during the procedure
- Practise deep breathing relaxation techniques before the appointment
Your first visit to the dentist for teeth cleaning may cause you anxiety. However, sedation shouldn't be the only option. Talk to your dentist about your fears so they can recommend the best relaxation methods to get you through the procedure.