Overcoming the FEAR Factor
Does the whine of dental drills send chills down your spine? Is it the noise or smell of your dentist’s office that makes your palms sweat? You are not alone!
Dentist’s offices routinely make the list when it comes to the most commonly feared places. Many dentists realize this and take extra measures to make their office smell better, offer beverage bars and put TVs in their rooms. Although these are nice offerings, these amenities do not get rid of your fear or erase your memory of the visit.
Specializing in sedation dentistry at my offices, Benjamin M. Kacos, we are widely known for helping patients overcome their dental anxiety. Let’s look at why sedation dentistry is becoming so popular.
Let’s talk about the different sedation options from most effective to least effective.
The most effective type of dental sedation is known as IV sedation. IV sedation delivers medicines through an IV. This is the fastest and most predictable way to deliver dental care in an environment where patients are happy, healthy and safe.
Dosages of sedation medications are not based on height, weight or age, but rather they are determined in real-time by monitoring the patient’s individual needs. Because delivering medications through an IV is the fastest route of administration, doctors can give you the proper dose to meet your individual needs instantly. IV sedation removes all the worry and apprehension you feel about visiting the dentist within a couple of minutes. An added benefit to IV sedation is other medicines can be given to you in the IV that will help you stay comfortable and pain-free after the procedure, such as long-lasting pain killers and antiinflammatory medications.
By using IV sedation, many patients get the care that they have been avoiding for years in a single visit. Most of the patients that take advantage of the benefits of IV sedation remark after their appointment that they don’t remember any of it. Any dental procedure, large or small, can be completed using IV sedation.
There are very few dentists who are qualified to provide this service because it is not taught in the curriculum of dental school. Also, IV sedation requires extensive training that must be renewed regularly.
One step down from IV sedation is oral sedation. Oral sedation means using a combination of a pill and laughing gas. Oral sedation can be very effective but is also very unpredictable in the range of its potency. It can also take a long time to kick in and a long time to go away. Patients take a pill and then wait 30 minutes to see if the impact of the medicine will sedate them enough to comfortably complete their procedure. Then, the effect of the sedation hangs around long after the dental appointment. Since everyone has a different tolerance to sedation drugs, the doctor administers a single dose and then simply hopes that the pill the patient took will create sedation that is not too light or too heavy. If the dose is too light, then the doctor can add laughing gas to the mix, which may or may not work efficiently. Typically, if the dose is too heavy, then you essentially wait for the meds to wear off, which could take a while. Many dentists are trained in oral sedation because they perceive a pill as safer than an IV, but this is not true at all.
If emergency meds are needed, it will require an IV, not a pill. IV sedation regulations require much more patient monitoring and are much stricter than oral sedation regulations leading to more safety for the patient.
The least effective form of sedation dentistry is laughing gas. Laughing gas provides a level of comfort like one glass of wine, and when the laughing gas is turned off, you can drive yourself home. Laughing gas is a reasonable option at routine dental cleanings or for someone who considers themselves just a little anxious about their dental appointment.
The great news about laughing gas is you can drive yourself home and/or back to work after your procedure. The bad news is that laughing gas is not potent enough for those with any considerable fear or anxiety about their dental appointment. Although providing laughing gas does require the dentists to have special permits, every dentist should be able to provide this service.
Benjamin M. Kacos, DMD, graduated from the Medical College of Georgia and moved to Shreveport, La., to begin his practice. His goal is to become known as “Shreveport’s Dentist.” With a passion for learning, teaching and improving the lives of his patients, Kacos travels the country attending and teaching dental courses.