Sleep dentistry or sedation dentistry, as it is known, can be a boon for people who are extremely fearful or uncomfortable while receiving dental treatment. Somewhat mimicking the pleasant, relaxed, sleepy haze that some people get from several strong drinks, the sedation produced by oral pills or medicinal IV drip makes the patient largely unaware of the procedure, and causes time to flow past much more swiftly. Even the relatively light sedation of laughing gas produces tranquil relaxation, with the added advantage of wearing off very quickly after use.
When Sedation Dentistry is Appropriate
Nevertheless, although sedation dentistry is often much appreciated by people who find it difficult to visit the dentist, these substances should always be used for the convenience of the patient, not the dentist. The patient should never make use of sleep dentistry if they do not want have it, and the dentist ought never to pressure a patient to take sedatives contrary to the patient’s wishes.
Feeling obliged or pressured to use sedatives adds to the stress of the procedure, whereas the only valid goal of sleep dentistry is to reduce stress. Keeping this goal firmly in mind allows mature and fruitful decisions on whether or not sedation is good choice for a particular episode of dentistry. Sedation dentistry is only appropriate when it increases patient comfort – not only physically, but emotionally and mentally as well.
Trust, Sedation, and Control
Other occasions when sedation dentistry may be inappropriate is when the patient is afraid of anesthesia in general, or when the relationship between the dentist and patient is strained. In the first case, sedation dentistry will again raise stress levels.
In the second case, using a chemical as a substitute for trust and good relations between doctor and patient will only increase problems. The patient and dentist should either work out their differences, or the patient should seek another service provider who is more accessible, understanding, or easy-going.
Of course, this is not to say that there aren’t many occasions when sedation dentistry is the best option all round. Being able to doze pleasantly through an otherwise tedious or stressful procedure is a gift to high-strung patients or those who have undergone many procedures.
Frequent trips to the dentist, as when major dental reconstruction is necessary, can be made far more endurable by the relaxation from a whiff of laughing gas, or the deeper sedation available from pills. Using sleep dentistry can even increase one’s sense of control over the situation, since the chemicals master the fear reaction and enable a calm, confident, and mostly forgotten session in the dentist’s chair. If sedation dentistry provides comfort or patient empowerment, then it is a perfectly appropriate way to deal with the discomfort and tedium of a visit to the “tooth doctor”.
Jake B. wrote this article on behalf of Las Vegas dentist Dr. Stephen Delisle, a practicing sedation dentist.