Most people are not very happy to come and sit in the dental chair for treatment.  Their reasons are numerous, but can fall into a few main categories;

1. Childhood bad experience

2. Adult bad experience

3. General fear based on stories and other tales of dental horrors.

I have found that the easiest and quickest method of dealing with these problems is some sedation. By sedation I mean nitrous oxide, or some oral medication like Halcion that is taken before the appointment. The goal of these treatments is to relax the patient or in the case of Halcion, to actually induce a very light stage of anesthesia which also results in amnesia.

Nitrous Oxide has been around for a long time –1800’s– and is a very safe inhalation gas particularly with the modern analgesia machines. It provides the patient with a relaxed warm feeling which helps most people tolerate the dental appointment with little difficulty. The patient should not feel like they are spinning around in the chair. That is too much of the Nitrous Oxide and the flow needs to be reduced.

Halcion and the other oral drugs used for sedation in dentistry provide a different sort of analgesia. With these medications, the patient will be drowsy, or in some cases asleep, and have little or no memory of the visit to the dentist. For patients who are very nervous, or terrified of the particular procedure, such as pulling teeth or having a root canal, this is the way to go. They know nothing, feel nothing and do not remember their visit. This makes them very happy.

The oral medications are safe in that they do not depress the heart rate or breathing. Intravenous medicines do depress the heart rate and breathing, so the patient has to be monitored and watched closely. Oral Surgeons and a few other dental specialist use intravenous medications for sedating their patients, but most general dentist use the oral medications.

With any form of sedation, other than Nitrous Oxide, the patient must be under constant supervision and care once they leave the office. It can take several hours in some cases for the patient to recover from the procedure and medication used. In fact with the oral medications, the patient will have to be brought to the office for treatment by a family member or friend. The oral medications begin to work within  fifteen minutes in some cases which makes  the patient unable to drive or take care of themselves. When the oral sedation medicine is combined with pain medications, the patient will be very sleepy.

Sedation is a great way to deal with anxiety and fear in the dental office. The patient can have a great deal of work done quickly and efficiently, and remember little if any of the time spent in the office. It is cheaper than using the operating rooms at the hospital with general anesthesia, yet can provide an experience which even the most fearful will be able to deal with quickly and efficiently.