Oral surgery has come a long way and is a more common method of treatment than ever before. This area of dental care can be relied on to treat a wide range of oral health and cosmetic concerns, ranging from smile restoration to treatment and correction of decayed and damaged teeth. Though these treatments continue to be more and more prevalent, the apprehensive sentiment towards oral surgery remains. The period of anticipation of your oral surgery operation may be filled with anxiety and nervousness. Understanding your options for dental sedation can play a big part in helping you feel more comfortable and at ease when it comes time for your appointment.
Dental sedation involves utilizing a technique to calm a patient and promote relaxation before and during the procedure. These sedatives are recognized as powerful tools in helping patients relax, avoid pain, and manage feelings of discomfort or anxiousness. Options for dental sedation range from having a more mild sedative effect to being completely asleep for the duration of surgery. Choosing an appropriate technique allows even the most complex dental surgeries to be performed with little or no discomfort whatsoever. Ultimately, deciding to undergo any method of sedation is up to you and your dental team.
Types of Dental Sedation for Oral Surgery
Local Anesthetic — A local anesthetic is a numbing agent that is either injected into the area of the gums being treated or applied topically. Though worth the mention, a local anesthetic is not considered a form of sedation but instead is strictly used as a method of pain management for your dental procedure. This is the only agent that, when used alone, can completely alleviate pain. Shortly after being administered, the patient will experience numbness in the cheeks, lips, and gums. What’s happening here involves blocking of the nerve fibers responsible for transmitting pain impulses. This prevents the patient from feeling any sensations of pain during the procedure, and for the few hours after as the anesthetic wears off. It should be noted, however, that a local anesthetic will not affect your level of consciousness. The patient will remain entirely aware and awake when only a local anesthetic is used.
For quick, minor procedures and surgeries, such as a cavity filling, a local anesthetic may be the only thing needed to keep the patient feeling comfortable and pain-free. For longer, more complex procedures, a local anesthetic may be used in combination with a dental sedative to calm the individual undergoing treatment.
Nitrous Oxide — Otherwise known as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide is the lightest form of conscious sedation. This agent is typically utilized for shorter, less complex, and minor procedures, such as tooth extractions or root canals. This sedative is administered through a soft nasal mask, through which you inhale the gas. As you begin breathing it in, its mild, calming effects can be felt very quickly, and provide a relaxing, at ease feeling almost instantly. Along with remaining conscious and being only mildly sedated, an additional benefit that many consider is its capacity to wear off just as quickly as it takes effect. Nitrous oxide is the only dental sedation option that allows you to still drive yourself home post-op.
Oral Sedation — Taking an oral sedative in pill-form is another option that can be considered for dental sedation. Though the dosage and medicine may vary depending on your personal health specifications, oral sedation is, across the board, a stronger option than nitrous oxide inhalation. Before the oral surgery begins, the patient will take a prescribed dose of sedative, as directed by your dentist or doctor, approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour before the operation. Though you remain conscious, this form of sedative relaxes the central nervous system, causing you to feel groggy, and sometimes fall asleep entirely.
This is an option to consider for patients experiencing a higher level of anxiety towards their oral surgery procedure. This stronger form of sedation promotes feelings of relaxation and comfort and is, therefore, capable of relieving intense feelings of apprehension and fear. Because the effects typically take several hours to wear off, the use of an oral sedative for your dental surgery means that you will be unable to drive yourself home after your procedure.
IV Sedation — Longer or more invasive procedures including complex wisdom tooth removal may require a stronger form of anesthesia administered intravenously. When opting for this form of dental sedation, it’s important to note that this will be done by an oral surgeon or anesthesiologist who is certified to do so. This sedation technique is strong, but controlled, with your vitals under constant monitoring. Through Twilight IV sedation, you remain conscious but have very little awareness of what’s happening around you. As with an oral sedative, the effects will linger for several hours, requiring that you have someone to drive you home from your appointment.
General Anesthesia — This form of sedation is considered a more profound anesthesia experience, and is only an option for patients who need significant oral surgery or who may be unable to take other forms of sedatives. The effects of general anesthesia are felt almost immediately. Patients will receive the anesthesia through an IV, typically in the arm or back of the hand. While under sedation, vitals will be monitored closely by a certified anesthesiologist and or oral surgeon. Once the anesthesia kicks in, patients will remain unconscious for the duration of the surgery, with the effects lingering for a few hours after, as well. General anesthesia may be an option for procedures such as a complex, impacted wisdom tooth removal or dental implant placement. Because the effects will remain in the hours following your procedure, you will be unable to drive yourself home and will need to organize transportation prior to your appointment.
Do I need sedation?
Dental sedation is a common course of action for oral surgery procedures and can work wonderfully to help patients overcome anxiety and minimize pain during a dental visit. If any of the below factors pertain to you, dental sedation may be beneficial.
- A low level of pain tolerance
- Can’t sit still in a dental chair
- Sensitive teeth
- Significant gag reflex
- Will undergo an invasive or complex procedure
- Are experiencing high levels of anxiety or fear towards a dental procedure
- Will undergo a long procedure, with many steps involved
If you are experiencing anxiety about your upcoming appointment, talk to your dentist about the sedation options that may be best for you. Your oral surgeon will consider your health history and any pre-existing conditions and advise you on the most appropriate course of action to take to lessen any fears and make the process as smooth, pain-free, and comfortable as possible.
At Champions Dental, we dedicate ourselves to helping our patients feel as comfortable as possible before, during, and after their oral surgery procedure. We want to put you at ease and provide detailed insight into the options available for your specific procedure.