Can Dental Sedation be Dangerous?

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We know it’s important that we maintain good oral hygiene, but many of us still can’t seem to shake that irrational fear that comes along with going to the dentist. Luckily, Dental professionals have provided us with a solution – Dental sedation. The treatment, offered by all NHS, private and emergency dentist surgeries helps us to calm our nerves and visit the Dentist without all the extra worry, – it’s the perfect solution to all our Dental problems, right? For the most part, sedation dentistry is a safe medication option that allows for patients to become drowsy, less anxious and, in some cases, more co-operative during Dental practises. However, what are the possible risks that need to be accounted for when considering this as an option? We aim to find out any and all potential outcomes, helping you to determine which form of the treatment is right for you.

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous Oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas is the first, and probably most well-known, form of Dental sedation currently on the market. This gas, used to relax especially nervous patients and those undergoing lengthy procedures, is mixed with oxygen and administered by inhalation through a mask fitted over the nose. This is a treatment not intending to put the patient to sleep, as it wears off very quickly once you stop breathing it in; individuals also must be conscious in order to give feedback about their anxiety levels. Despite this, many patients find that they fall asleep naturally when placed under this type of calming anaesthesia.

In regards to whether this treatment is dangerous, Nitrous Oxide, in many circumstances, could actually be considered to increase the overall level of safety. In cases of patients, such as children and those of special needs, who are unable to stay still, or become anxious during treatments, the use of sedation dentistry reduces the chances of any complications caused by these factors; making the procedure a much simpler and relaxing process for all involved. The fact patients remain responsive and awake during treatment is also a key factor toward its safety.

However, there are some risks involved with the use of laughing gas that should be accounted for. While all dentists administering Nitrous Oxide are highly trained to do so, equipped to administer basic life support in cases of emergency, and required to carry out a thorough patient evaluation, involving reviewing allergies, medical history, and examining baseline vital signs, there are still some side effects that could occur; as everyone responds differently to anaesthesia. For the most part, these are issues not considered too serious, and really only occur if the gas is inhaled in excess or much too quickly. Effects of the sedation include dizziness, fatigue, vomiting, shivering, nausea, and excessive sweating.

Oral Sedation

Oral sedation, also commonly called conscious sedation, involves the patient taking a prescribed dose of sedative prior to the procedure taking place. This type of anaesthesia, much like Nitrous Oxide, ensures individuals remain conscious for the duration of their visit to the Dentist as to co-operate with instruction and offer feedback, but also provides a significantly relaxing effect. This has been found to be very effective for those with high levels of anxiety associated with Dental procedures, the majority not even remembering the procedure took place at all! While it can be made available, this is an option less commonly offered by emergency Dentist practices, as the treatment must be prescribed beforehand; which is impractical in cases of Dental emergency. However, this sedative, deemed highly effective in calming patients, can be required with ease through both NHS and Private Dentist clinics.

For the most part, this type of sedation is a safe one, the procedure even able to be offered to children if needed. All dentists performing the treatment are highly qualified in all practises of sedative Dentistry; however, this does not mean there are no potential risks involved. Side effects, much like those of laughing gas, can include drowsiness, nausea, headaches, vomiting, dry mouth, and dizziness; and occur as we all experience medications differently, – the experience of these side effects is not guaranteed.

IV Sedation

IV sedation is not a very common option when it comes to most patients as it is often only used in extreme cases, such as severe phobia or periods of long dental work. This form of treatment comes within two variations, the first of these, and probably the most effective of all options, being known as Twilight Sedation. During this treatment, patient is conscious, but not aware of their surroundings or able to remember the procedure once the sedative effects wear off. The other option comes in the form of general anaesthesia, which the use of is relatively uncommon in dentistry procedures and is often only made available to those resistant to other sedatives, or in need of significant oral surgery. This form of dental treatment, unlike other options, leaves the patient totally unconscious, and can only take place in a specialised clinic or hospital with highly trained professionals monitoring your vital signs.

While the use of general anaesthesia on patients is still very safe, it carries the risk of slightly more severe side effects in comparison to the previous options. Individuals who are older, or those undergoing lengthy procedures, are more susceptible to negative outcomes such as postoperative confusion, pneumonia, and in some cases, even heart attack or stroke. However, it is extremely rare for patients to experience complications relating to anaesthesia and any issues that occur can usually be brought under control fairly quickly. Despite this, risk is slightly increased for those with medical histories that involve serious problems, so it is vital to discuss your options extensively with a medical professional before opting to undergo any sort of sedative treatment.

Complications caused by Medications and other Issues

As previously discussed, all Dental sedatives offered to patients are highly safe and the chances of experiencing serious side effects extremely rare, making most a great option for anyone looking to combat their Dentistry fears. Though, further complications can occur through the addition of other factors.

If sedative Dentistry is administered to a patient taking a pre-existing medication, or using a substance, that depresses the central nervous system, such as narcotic pain relievers or alcohol, the effects that various types of anaesthesia have can be greatly intensified. This brings potential to slow breathing to dangerously low levels and, in extreme cases, stop respiratory functions all together. Due to this, it is important you let your Dentist know of any medication or substance you may be taking, as these could have adverse effects of the success of sedative dentistry. Complications can also be developed through the use of anaesthesia if a patient has pre-existing health problems that can interfere with the achievement of a successful sedation, such as obesity or obstructive sleep apnea.

To conclude, sedation dentistry is a great solution for anyone who struggles during their trips to the dentist, and can also be great when undergoing extensive surgery; – finding the right option for you may be simpler than you think!

Interested in dental sedative treatment? Visit our sedation services page to find out how our Private Dentist Clinic can help, or get in touch to arrange your free consultation.