Sedation Dentistry Explained
It’s perfectly normal to feel a little nervous about visiting the dentist. Many patients experience that familiar “butterflies in the stomach” sensation as they walk in to their appointment. The key difference between a run-of-the-mill case of nerves and true dental fear or dental anxiety arises when a person feels so uncomfortable with the dentist’s office that they avoid going altogether. As many as 40 million American adults experience dental anxiety so strong that they do not receive the dental care they need until a painful dental emergency forces their hand. To help anxious and fearful patients receive the dental care they need, many dentists offer a variety of sedation options. Dr. David Zelby, a licensed doctor of conscious sedation (DOCS) in Atlanta, talks today about dental fear and anxiety and discusses safe, reliable oral sedation dentistry.
Understanding Dental Fear and Dental Anxiety
While many use these terms interchangeably, dental fear and dental anxiety describe two different psychological conditions. Dental anxiety, the milder of the two, describes mild-to-moderate feelings of unease or apprehension when a person contemplates a dental visit. A person with dental anxiety may make dentist appointments but will miss them or find excuses to avoid them. Dental fear, also called dental phobia, causes the sufferer to experience intense dread, unease, and even nausea at the thought of entering a dentist’s office. Dr. Zelby explains that mental health experts attribute the causes of dental fear and anxiety to a diverse range of factors, including negative or painful experiences in the past, a general fear of clinical spaces, and even off-putting representations of dentists and dentistry in the media.
The Dangers of Avoiding the Dentist
According to Dr. Zelby, the progression of tooth decay offers a good example of how avoiding regular dental care can cause significant problems. Tooth decay begins as a patch of demineralized enamel. During a regular checkup, your dentist will identify the demineralized area and suggest a simple, conservative treatment such as a fluoride rinse. However, if you skip your regular checkup – or never make the appointment at all – the demineralization will deepen and form a cavity. Even at this point, if you see a dentist, he can remove the decay and repair the tooth using a composite filling. Unfortunately, by avoiding the dentist entirely, the cavity will continue to deepen into the dentin and pulp layers of the tooth, causing extreme pain and requiring invasive treatment such as a crown, root canal, or even total extraction.
All About Oral Sedation
Oral sedation provides a simple solution for people who want to take better care of their teeth and gums but who must contend with dental fear and anxiety. Dr. Zelby, a certified doctor of conscious sedation in Atlanta, describes the process:
- The dentist prescribes a single dose of an anti-anxiety medication, such as Halcyon or Valium.
- The patient takes the medication about an hour before their appointment.
- During the appointment, the patient feels profoundly relaxed and detached from the procedure at hand but can still answer the dentist’s questions if necessary.
- After the appointment, a trusted friend or relative escorts the patient home and waits with them while the medication wears off.
- Most patients report having no memory of their procedure.
When administered by a dentist who is licensed and trained in oral sedation, patients can feel comfortable that they are receiving the dental care they need in an extremely safe environment. An assistant will monitor your vital signs and perform manual checks to make sure you remain secure and relaxed throughout the entire procedure.
Oral Sedation Dentistry in Atlanta
If you have avoided visiting the dentist because of dental fear or anxiety, call Dr. David Zelby at (770) 955-0550. Dr. Zelby and the expert team at Aesthetic & Implant Dentistry of Atlanta can help you feel at ease while we return your smile to optimal health, function, and beauty. Our Atlanta dentist office proudly serves patients in Marietta, Smyrna, East Cobb, Buckhead, Vinings, and Metro Atlanta.