There are several medications available, which can make dental work more comfortable for all patients, including those suffering from anxiety. Local anesthetics are used to numb the area being treated, thus preventing pain. Analgesics (pain relievers) are used to reduce or eliminate pain. They are often recommended with procedures such as oral surgeries, which may leave lingering soreness after the anesthetic wears off.
Sedatives are used to enhance the effectiveness of pain medications, and relax the patient. Different levels of sedation may be used, depending on the situation. This can be extremely beneficial to patients with dental fear, as well as those needing extensive work. Sedatives can help prevent panic, gag reflex, dental chair fatigue, and feelings of claustrophobia.
What is nitrous oxide?
Nitrous oxide, commonly called laughing gas, is the mildest and most common form of sedation. It is a compound made of oxygen and nitrogen, which is delivered through a comfortable mask. The patient is asked to breathe normally, and the effects of nitrous begin within a few minutes. It is safe for patients of all ages, and makes dental visits much easier for nervous children.
This gentle sedative induces a state of relaxation, and may cause mild giddiness or euphoria in some patients. Throughout the procedure, the patient remains fully awake, and is capable of thinking rationally. They are aware of their surroundings, and responsive to touch as well as speech.
The side effects of nitrous oxide are mild and short-lived. Some patients report lightheadedness, tingling, or the sensation of heaviness in their limbs. When the dental procedure is over, just a few minutes of oxygen will counteract the effects of nitrous oxide. This is the only form of sedation that allows patients to drive themselves home after the appointment.
Oral sedation is stronger than nitrous, enduring a somewhat drowsy state. In some cases, the two are combined for an even stronger sedative effect. Many high-fear patients avoid seeing a dentist for extended periods, resulting in massive decay or severe gum disease. A deeper level of sedation can allow these complex problems to be corrected in fewer appointments, without excess stress.