The fear of the dentist is one of the most common fears people experience in our modern-day age. People report experiencing anxiety,and they worry that whatever the dentist is going to do will cause them extreme pain. While this once was a valid concern, especially for those needing more advanced dental procedures, nowadays most dental visits are pain-free.
Is it too good to be true? Is painless dentistry real and can you actually visit the dentist without the fear and anxiety you once experienced?
Here’s what you need to know about painless dentistry.
How Can Dental Work Be Stress-free?
A number of dental procedures have always been able to be performed without pain. However, if you are particularly sensitive or you’re having problems with your teeth, what might be pain-free for someone could make you uncomfortable.
If you are truly experiencing pain when you arrive at the dental office or at any time during a procedure, even if it’s a routine cleaning, it’s important you speak up. Even if the pain is something new and you’ve usually been fine visiting the dentist, you should say something as soon as you feel pain. This not only allows the hygienist or dentist to do something to ease the pain, but it also alerts him or her to any potential problems.
But what about when your “pain” is actually stress?
In some cases, patients are concerned about pain, but it’s really their nerves and stress causing them problems. They might be highly sensitive and experience mild pain during a routine procedure, but it’s their anxiety that keeps them away from twice yearly cleanings.
What can you do to reduce the stress associated with dental work?
Sedation dentistry helps. It not only eases any discomfort, but it also makes your nerves easier to deal with. Sedation dentistry is appropriate for regular tooth cleanings, but it can also be used for more invasive procedures. How it’s used all depends on your level of anxiety.
How Does Sedation Dentistry Work?
Sedation dentistry utilizes medications and other tools to help you relax during a procedure. Some people call it “sleep dentistry” because you might feel drowsy while undergoing the procedure, but you aren’t actually asleep unless the procedure is invasive enough to require general anesthesia – the highest level of sedation.
There are several types of mild to moderate sedation used in painless dentistry, including:
Inhaled sedation: this is minimal sedation that is triggered by inhaling nitrous oxide. Some people calling this laughing gas because it puts you at ease and makes you feel relaxed and happy. Your dentist can control the amount of gas you receive, and you breathe it in through a mask you wear over your nose. Sedation from nitrous oxide wears off quickly.
Oral sedation: oral sedation is triggered by swallowing a pill. The amount of sedation gained from a pill can range from mild to moderate and usually leaves you feeling drowsy but awake, though some people do fall asleep. This is the most common form of sedation dentistry used.
IV sedation: IV sedation is triggered by the administration of a sedative drug through an IV needle. It works fast and makes it possible to adjust the level of sedation throughout the procedure.
General anesthesia: anesthesia is triggered through IV administration and puts you into deep sedation. You are completely asleep and cannot easily be awakened until the anesthesia has worn off.
These sedation tools are paired with local anesthetic, which numbs the areas of the mouth where the dentist will be working.
For more about the various types of sedation, check out this information from Drugs.com.
Will Sedation Dentistry Work for Me?
Sedation dentistry can help most adults feel better about going to the dentists. It’s ideal for people who have lower pain tolerance, suffer from a sensitive gag reflex, who struggle to sit still during a procedure, or need a significant amount of dental work completed. And if you’re just a generally anxious person who has difficulty dealing withstressful situations, then sedation can help you relax and allow you to do what is necessary to maintain good dental health.
For more tips on dealing with anxiety, check out this article from WebMD.
Sedation dentistry can be used in some cases with children, though there aren’t as many options. Most evidence shows that the use of nitrous gas is safe for children, and in some cases, oral sedation can be used to calm a child. It’s important to work closely with your child’s dentist if you believe sedation is necessary and never administer any type of sedation for your child unless instructed to do so by a doctor who is aware of the situation.
How Do I Know My Dentist Offers Painless Services?
All dentists use local anesthesia to reduce the discomfort of dental procedures. Many have also begun administering minimal sedation techniques for patients who need it.
Fewer are able to administer moderate sedation,and only a handful of dentists have completed the Commission on Dental Accreditation’s program for deep sedation and general anesthesia. If you have serious concerns about the pain of dental procedures, it’s best to find a dentist who has completed this program and can offer you the full gamut of sedation options.
To learn more about CODA’s program, check out this information from the American Dental Association.
Many people are also concerned about the safety and effectiveness of painless dentistry. Dental procedures advertised as pain-free should be just as effective as any regular procedure. Once the sedation is administered, most dentists perform the same as when patients have undergone no sedation.
Some dental offices have begun marketing themselves as pain-free or sedation dentists because they want clients to know they can offer a more pleasant experience. These offices often include other stress management tools for patients and do what they can to make the environment as pleasant as possible during a visit. They might play soft music, allow patients to watch relaxing videos, or use aromatherapy to put patients at ease.
Though these things alone can’t take away anxiety about visiting the dentist completely, a more welcoming and comfortable environment can help patients feel better about their experience. Be wary of dentists offering painless dentistry who only offer these environmental benefits – to be truly painless, you need to undergo sedation.