Sedation dentistry–what an interesting topic. First off, what does it mean, and is it for you? Well, it means that a person’s sedated while undergoing some dental process, such as having a cavity filled, for example. Sedated has a few different meanings, or at least one meaning with varying levels of intensity. You can be lightly sedated–that is, the dentist can make you feel dreamy and faraway and optimistic but you’re still basically all there, still basically with it–and you can be heavily or totally sedated, which means you’re not really conscious of what’s going on at the moment. Most people don’t like to be sedated at all, they like to feel they’re in control, but then again–most people don’t like paying a visit to the dentist either.
Sedation dentistry, is it for you? Should you even consider sedation dentistry before heading in? Is sedation dentistry dangerous? Can your local dentist perform sedation dentistry, or do you have to see a specialist? If you choose sedation dentistry, should you choose light sedation or heavy sedation? What are the aftereffects of sedation dentistry, how long will it take you to recover? Are there any other negative things about sedation dentistry that you should consider? Is sedation dentistry really that important to a patient? Is sedation dentistry really that helpful to either the patient or the dentist? If so, how is sedation dentistry helpful? If not, why does sedation dentistry exist in the first place?
The answer to these questions, for the most part, can only be answered by you, because you are the world’s first and foremost expert on your specific reactions to having dental work done. Dental work is a pretty overwhelming experience for many people, and for some it’s positively terrifying. Fear of dental work is an actual phobia, like fear of rats or heights. Therefore, when considering sedation dentistry of any intensity you should carefully ask yourself what you really need for your dental work to be done right and with as little misery (for you and your dentist) as possible.
Why include your dentist in that question? What reasons could a dentist possibly have for hoping that patient will choose sedation dentistry? You have to remember that dentistry is a job–it’s hard, the hours are long, the work is tedious. Dentists want to move through every visit as smoothly and quickly as possible. They have to be kind, of course, and if you’ve got a good relationship with them they probably want to be kind, but they can’t afford to treat every visit as if they’re a parent getting a child ready for bed. If, when it comes to dental work, you feel you are that child, sedation dentistry is probably a good idea. That way, everything’s over quickly–there’s no dawdling over one last TV show, indecision over which set of pajamas to wear, resistance to brushing your teeth, fear of the dark. There’s no bone dust hovering above you as a drill shrieks in your brain and blood spatters your bib. It’s as if you’ve pointed a wand at the child and all of the above chores are done instantly, the child’s in bed peacefully sleeping.
Which doesn’t mean, of course, that fear of the dentist equals immaturity at all! All sorts of people have been terrified of dentists, from artists to generals to dentists themselves. Sedation dentistry is nothing to be ashamed of–even people who aren’t particularly afraid of things dental take advantage of it from time to time. The sedatives used aren’t quite the same as those used for other kinds of surgery, which means there’s less of a risk and much, much less expense involved–but anytime a person uses sedatives of any strength he runs the risk of harming himself. When it comes to sedation dentistry, it’s a very small risk, but you’ll want to talk to your dentist if you have any serious concerns.
Dr. Gerard DiFusco, DDS, is a leading Webster dentist. Dr. DiFusco and the Webster Dental Center specialize in Smile Makeovers, Dental Implants and Sedation Dentistry.