Does the thought of being in the dentist’s chair make you apprehensive — or worse, fill you with dread? If so, you’re not alone. Around 75 percent of Americans report having some degree of anxiety about visiting the dentist, and an estimated 9 to 15 percent of those (around 30 to 40 million people) avoid the dentist altogether. Are you one of those who have gone years — or even decades — without having necessary dental work because of dental fear or anxiety? Our prosthodontist, Dr. Dean Kois, understands that some of his patients feel this way, which is why he offers various options for his patients in order to keep them relaxed and worry-free during their visit.
How Can Sedation Dentistry Help You?
At Kois Dentistry, we use the oral sedation method to help our patients find relief from the following:
- Dental phobia/high levels of fear and anxiety about visiting the dentist
- “Drill anxiety”/fear of the dental drill, needles and other dental instruments
- Difficulty relaxing or sitting still in the dentist’s chair
- Having a low pain tolerance
- Having a strong gag reflex
From routine dental exams to procedures like root canal therapy and dental implant placement, sedation dentistry can be utilized to help you relax while you get the care you need.
What to Expect with Oral Sedation
One of the most commonly used sedation methods, oral sedation is administered to the patient in the form of a sedative pill (Xanax, Valium, etc.). At some point before your visit, typically about an hour before, you can take the pill that Dr. Kois has prescribed, which will help calm your anxiety in time for your exam or procedure. In certain cases, Dr. Kois may instruct you to take the sedative as early as the night before your office visit. Since driving under the influence of a sedative is not recommended, we suggest that you have someone drive you to our office for your visit.
An oral sedative will place you in a state of “conscious sedation,” which means that you will be in a relaxed state and free of fear or anxiety, while still being awake for the procedure. In this state, though you may be a bit groggy and may even fall asleep during the procedure, you will still be conscious and able to communicate with Dr. Kois effectively during the entire process. And since the sedative does not provide pain relief, we will use it in combination with a local anesthetic that numbs the area being worked on; this safe yet effective combination of oral sedative and local anesthetic will ensure that you are tension-free and comfortable during your visit with us.
It takes about 24 hours for the effects of the oral sedative to wear off completely. For this reason, we recommend having someone drive you home from our office.
At this level of sedation, you will not be in a sleep state, but you will have little to no sensation during treatment and won’t remember anything after treatment. You can breathe on your own and respond to verbal cues from the doctor. To achieve this level of sedation, Dr. Kois administers the medication intravenously, through a small needle in your arm or the back of your hand, and can easily control and customize the amount of medication. The medication is absorbed quickly and wears off quickly after treatment, with little recovery time.
Frequently Asked Questions about Sedation Dentistry
How does sedation dentistry work?
Sedation dentistry involves taking special oral medications to help you relax during dental treatment. You will feel no pain or discomfort during your appointment.
Will I be asleep?
No, you will be in a very relaxed and dream-like state. You will be able to respond to our verbal cues and commands and answer our questions.
Am I a candidate for sedation dentistry?
You may be a good candidate for sedation dentistry if you are an adult that:
- had a previously traumatic dental experience
- has trouble getting numb
- gags easily
- has extremely sensitive teeth
- has extensive dental treatment needs
- hates needles or shots
- has avoided the dentist for many years because of fear or anxiety
Is the sedation medication safe?
Yes, your safety and well-being are our top priorities. Our team has gone through rigorous training and is certified to administer sedation medications. The drugs we use are very safe, and you will be given the lowest effective dosage.
Prior to giving you anything, we will screen you to make sure you don’t have any medical conditions that could cause adverse reactions, or take any medications that could cause an interaction. We will also monitor you very closely while you are sedated, to ensure there are no problems.
If you are hesitant about taking an oral medication, we recommend nitrous oxide (i.e., “laughing gas”) as a viable alternative. The gas is inhaled through a mask placed over your nose and puts you into a very relaxed and happy state.
Are there any side effects to the medication?
We have noticed that some patients get dry mouth and/or the hiccups. These are very minor and temporary side effects, and you likely will not even remember them.
Can the medication be administered through an IV?
Yes, we also offer IV sedation delivered through a small needle in the arm or the back of the hand. This way, we can control the dosage of the medication and make changes as needed. Although we do see a lot of patients that are scared of needles and can tolerate the oral sedation medication more easily.
Do you offer general anesthesia?
No, we don’t feel that general anesthesia is necessary for most dental treatment.
How will I feel after my treatment?
You might feel slightly groggy from the effects of the medication, but it should be mild and wear off quickly.
Will I have any memory of treatment?
No, you will have very little memory of your treatment (if any).
Can I drive myself home after my appointment?
No, we require that you have a friend or family member drive you home after your appointment.
Are there any special restrictions prior to undergoing sedation dentistry?
Yes, we will go over the specific restrictions during your consultation. In general, you should avoid alcohol and sedatives for 24 hours prior to your appointment. Avoid stimulants, smoking and caffeine about 12 hours before and after your appointment. Refrain from eating and drinking after 7 p.m. the night before your appointment.
Free Yourself from Dental Anxiety!
At Kois Dentistry, though we do understand that feelings of anxiety and fear are common, we also know how important it is to keep up on a proper oral health care routine. Regular dental exams can detect problems early, before they become serious, painful and costly issues. If you have questions about oral sedation, including how it can help calm your nerves so that you can have a stress-free visit with us, contact our office to schedule an appointment with Seattle dentist Dr. Kois.