The dental process known as “conscious sedation” sounds like a contradiction in terms. How can someone be sedated while remaining conscious? This is the process frequently referred to as “twilight sleep” in dental advertising, and which provides the patient with a sense of deep calm during the dental procedure. Unlike general anesthesia, where a patient is unable to respond or breathe on their own, conscious sedation allows the patient to respond to questions or stimuli and to breathe without artificial assistance of any kind.
Many people avoid dental work or even basic care because of their fears of the discomfort associated with many dental issues. This is the primary reason that dentists have begun to offer sedation dentistry on a regular basis, and not just for certain procedures or dental work such as fillings or oral surgery, but for simple procedures such as cleanings. Conscious provo sedation dentistry is usually performed through three methods – intravenous drugs, oral medications or inhaled gases. All three methods are affective, and it is up to the patient to choose which variety they will need. For instance, a patient that wants absolutely no awareness of their visit in the dentist’s chair may opt for the IV sedation, as it is usually accompanied by total or partial amnesia. Alternately, a person concerned about the lingering effects of IV or oral medications may opt for the “twilight” sensation of gas, which wears off almost immediately. Most dentists now agree that conscious sedation and sedation dentistry are done for the patient, not the procedure, and this is the reason the method of sedation selected depends purely on the needs of the patient. If someone has strong phobias about dental work and dental visits it is best for them to choose the most affective measures possible, and this is the reason for the IV or inhaled sedatives, rather than a pharmaceutical sedative that may not have a potent or long-lasting effect. Dental patients should also be completely aware of their own medical histories, and review them with their dentist, before selecting a specific form of sedation, as both the IV and oral medications are not appropriate for everyone.
Are there any “downsides” to choosing sedation? Not really, apart from addressing health issues and appropriateness, patients who choose to take oral medications or who opt for the IV method of sedation will require an escort to and from their visit. For those with a phobia about needles, IV sedation may not be the wisest choice, because it will require the insertion of a needle into the hand or arm of the patient, and it will not eliminate the need for numbing drugs, which are also administered via injection into the mouth of a patient. The effectiveness of oral medications also come into question, due to the varying strength of the standard dosages. For example, each person’s metabolism, body weight and health status is different, meaning that recommended doses may not provide the proper amount of sedation or anti-anxiety protection for each person. It is best to thoroughly review any and all concerns with the dentist prior to choosing a method of conscious sedation. Some people believe they will need the treatment, when in fact they would be better served through some relaxation techniques or open discussion with their dentist about what each procedure might involve.