Sedation Dentistry


Have you ever missed out on a dental appointment because you’re too afraid to sit in the dental chair? Do you have a strong gag reflex that makes it difficult for you to let a dentist work in your mouth or even to simply clean your teeth? Is it hard for you to keep your mouth open for a long time? Or do your muscles easily ache after staying in one position too long?

Sedation dentistry can help you with all of those issues. When a person gets their dental work done under sedation, local anesthetics are still used to make it a better experience. Local anesthesia is primarily used for blocking the nerves around the immediate treatment area, whereas sedation is a way of making you either less anxious or even completely unaware that you are even having dental work done at all. It definitely eases anxiety, pain, and discomfort.

When Do I Need Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation is suitable for patients who have the following problems:

  1. Dental fear and anxiety. Patients who have dental phobia will do everything to avoid visiting the dentist, but this can be a cause for poor oral health in the long run. For those who have extreme fear and anxiety issues, sedation can help keep them relaxed. Some sedatives can even keep patients semi-conscious, but still leaving them oblivious during dental treatment.
  2. Extreme gag reflex. Some patients find it hard to keep their mouths open for extended periods. Others gag when the dentist places a dental bite-rest or uses tools in the back of the mouth. Sedation can assist in relaxing the muscles, decreasing gag reflex, and keeping the patient physically comfortable.
  3. Discomfort in maintaining a single position for a long time. Patients who have muscle or joint issues, especially seniors, may find it hard to sit still on the dental chair for an hour or two. In such case, they may be given sedation to help them fall into a light sleep or enter semi-conscious state which will make it easier for them to stay in place.
  4. Agitation or poor cooperation. Children and special needs patients are both particularly uncooperative during dental treatments because they might be afraid or bored or just plain fidgety. Sedation dentistry, depending on the type used, will keep these patients either more calm or even completely asleep during treatment, making it easier for dentists to complete the treatment they need.
  5. Low tolerance of local anesthetics. In some cases, patients don’t take local anesthetics very well. They may react badly to these medicines or the anesthesia just doesn’t work efficiently on them. To increase the pain relief and compensate for the low anesthesia tolerance, sedation will be needed.

Types of Sedation for Dentistry

The sedation dentistry method that should be used depends on the needs of the person being sedated. We offer the full-spectrum of sedation dentistry options all the way from general anesthesia administered by a specialized dentist anesthesiologist down to simple nitrous oxide.

Nitrous Oxide

sedation dentistry in tempe az

Also called laughing gas, this calming sedative allows patients to feel relaxed and comfortable. Some patients do fall asleep with it. The sedative does not have any pain-relieving effects, but has proven very effective for patients who have anxiety problems or poor cooperation, such as children. The great part about nitrous oxide is that you can drive yourself home after your appointment rather than needing a ride. This is due to the near instant-on and instant-off effects of the laughing gas as the gas is turned either on or off.

Oral Sedation

Oral sedatives such as Valium come in pill form and are taken shortly before the actual procedure. These drugs are typically in the benzodiazepine family, but some dentists utilize barbiturates or opioids as well. Oral sedatives have varying degrees of effectiveness and may last for an hour to as long as 12 hours. Oral sedatives can be used in combination with nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to increase the sedative effect. The primary downside to oral sedatives is the long delay between taking the pill and feeling its effects. This makes it difficult to provide the patient with the precise level of sedation needed because the effects of the drugs vary from person to person, and with the long delay in onset it is impractical to give second and third doses of an oral sedative to try to boost the level of sedation.

IV Sedation

IV sedation is similar to oral sedation but instead of taking the drugs by the mouth, they are placed directly into the bloodstream via an IV. The array of drugs that can be used for IV sedation are almost the same as the ones for oral use, although they may have different components and effectiveness. Some of the most commonly used drugs are Valium (diazepam), Versed (midazolam), Dilaudid (hydromorphone), and Fentanyl. When sedation drugs are administered through an IV, the sedatives act immediately. This immediate onset allows the dentist to give the precise amount of the various sedation drugs necessary to achieve the desired level of sedation of each person. IV sedation is also ideal for patients who are undergoing longer treatments and may need another dose in the middle of the procedure. IV sedation is often used for wisdom teeth extraction, dental implant placement, root canals, gum surgery, gum or bone grafting, and other oral surgery procedures. However, in the case of extremely phobic dental patients, IV sedation can even be used for routine dental procedures such as cleanings or fillings.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia (GA) is typically used for major procedures which require invasive surgical treatment as well as for extremely uncooperative children and some of the more challenging special needs patients.

The anesthetic is administered through an IV and the dosage is controlled by an anesthesiologist throughout the procedure. Since this is a strong anesthetic, vital signs are monitored closely. Pre-operative instructions such as fasting will be given by the dentist or anesthesiologist prior to the actual date of surgery.

Benefits of Sedation Dentistry

Sedation dentistry provides the following benefits:

  1. Better treatment outcomes. When dentists are able to work on patients who can stay still, they can perform the procedure more accurately and quickly.
  2. Better tolerance of dental treatment. Patients who undergo IV sedation and general anesthesia typically do not remember anything about the treatment. Their confidence with their dentist increases and will likely be less afraid of future dental care allowing them to eventually overcome the need for sedation dentistry.
  3. Less anxiety. One of the keys to effective dental treatment  is ensuring that patients actually come in for an assessment. Sedation dentistry provides many patients with pain-free, anxiety-free dental experience.

Safe and Effective Sedation from Hatch Family Dentistry

At Hatch Family Dentistry, we have nearly 40 years of combined experience in dental practice. We understand where patients’ fears come from and we work closely with all of our patients to give them the most comfortable dental experience.

If you are worried about getting dental treatment because of anxiety, you can talk to our dental team to discuss sedation options. Just give us a call at (480) 838-3073 and we will answer all your questions on how we can help you overcome dental fear or other difficulties.