As many as 6 in 10 Americans experience anxiety at the thought of visiting the dentist, so if you’ve ever put off a checkup because of feelings of dread, you’re far from alone. As many as 10% of people have full-on dental phobia, a condition prevalent enough to be listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In short, some people have problems going to the dentist.
Yet, biannual dentist visits are perhaps the best way to prevent the very conditions for which people worry most about, so dental anxiety can be a real threat to your oral hygiene. Dr. Wilcox and the team at his Butte, Montana, practice are experienced with sedation dentistry techniques, permitting you to get the care you need without suffering the negative effects of anxiety.
Not just a fear of drills
Those with dental anxiety or phobias aren’t necessarily afraid of only the invasive treatments, such as cavities, root canals, or extractions. It’s normal for these people to dread even simple exams and cleanings. In a way, it’s like contact lenses. Some people have no trouble putting them in or taking them out, while others can’t tolerate the thought of touching their eyes in that way. There’s nothing unusual about any of these preferences. They’re simply part of who you are.
Levels of anxiety, levels of sedation
Since dental anxiety is personal, the severity of your anxiety sets the tone for Dr. Wilcox’s approach. You may have heard sedation dentistry referred to as “sleep” dentistry. While general anesthesia is one option, it’s not the only dental sedation technique. In fact, most people opt for levels of sedation where they remain awake but relaxed, able to tolerate dental treatment.
There are four general levels of sedation used by dentists.
- Minimal sedation takes the edge off your anxiety, but you remain awake, aware, and relaxed
- Moderate sedation affects you more completely, to the point that you slur words and may have trouble remembering details of your treatment
- Deep sedation can put you on the edge of consciousness, so you may sleep, but it’s also easy to wake you
- General anesthesia, as with other types of surgery, renders you unconscious during the procedure
Types of dental sedatives
The various levels of sedation are produced by one or more techniques. Minimal sedation usually takes the form of nitrous oxide, a safe gas that’s inhaled and relaxes you. Its effects wear off quickly, so it’s the only sedation method where you may be able to drive yourself home after the procedure.
Oral medications can produce minimal to moderate sedation. The drug Halcion® is typically used in pill form, with higher doses producing more sedation. It takes about an hour for the effects to develop.
Intravenous methods are usually used for moderate and deep sedation as well as general anesthesia. The medications used depend on the desired level of anxiety reduction needed.
Sedation techniques are in addition to regular dental anesthetics, making your procedure both pain- and worry-free. Don’t let anxiety keep you from having the dental care you need and deserve. Contact Dr. Wilcox’s office by phone or online to book your sedation dentistry appointment today.