I have not been to a dentist for many years, but recently I cracked a molar, and now I have to do something. I am a real chicken when it comes to dental care – I have been scared to go to the dentist for as long as I can remember, and as an adult have only gone when I really, really have to. I hate everything about it – the scraping, the pain, the noise. I start sweating just thinking about it.
I’ve heard about sedation dentists, but I’m wondering how safe that is. What kind of risks are involved with this kind of sedation? I think that’s what I need, but I don’t want to put myself in danger.
–Erin from Arizona
I first want to tell you that you aren’t alone. Many people are incredibly anxious when they visit the dentist. We are particularly sympathetic here to “dental cowards” – Dr. Whitmore and our staff have special training, so we can provide sedation dentistry for people who are extremely anxious about dental care.
Some call it sleep dentistry. But you aren’t actually put asleep, and this is one of the things you need to know, because this is a significant safety factor. It may seem like you were asleep for your appointment, because you are so sleepy and relaxed that you usually don’t even remember your appointment. The technical term for it is “conscious sedation”. Conscious means that all your protective reflexes, your breathing, your heart and everything else function normally but you are still very sleepy and relaxed.
And then, as an extra safety precaution, it is pretty standard procedure to monitor your vital functions with a pulse oximeter. This is a device that makes sure that there is adequate oxygen in your blood. Dr. Whitmore’s opinion is that it is safer to have the sedation than to not have it, because more emergencies such as fainting, heart attacks, strokes, diabetic episodes, or other emergencies happen from stress than from any other factor in a dental appointment.
Sedation dentistry can help you overcome your fear. Hopefully, one good experience will lead to another, and you will be able to pursue regular dental care. Good luck!