We know that not everyone considers a trip to the dentist an enjoyable experience. For some, the fear and anxiety has kept them away for years.
We understand that a trip to the dentist can be a difficult experience for some people. Shots, drills, and the use of all the necessary instruments can create anxiety. But now, we can alleviate all the fears and worries of the dentally challenged. With conscious sedation dentistry, these patients will become calm and not remember the treatment.
Signs of Dental Anxiety
- Missed regular cleanings or checkups
- Ignored obvious teeth problems
- Avoided scheduling fillings, root canals, crowns
- Consistently used over the counter medications to deal with tooth or jaw pain
- Feel anxious about scheduling an appointment
We are one of the few dental offices in the state qualified to administer a full range of sedation options, including IV sedation. We also offer nitrous oxide (laughing gas) for lighter sedation. We offer this array of options to let all of our patients feel comfortable and relaxed throughout their dental treatments.
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at (912) 354-1366
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What is Dental Phobia?
Dental phobia, officially known as dentophobia, is a strong fear or repulsion of seeing the dentist. It is far more than simple nervousness, and can cause people to put off even essential dental care for months or years. Dental phobia can have many different causes, but most people who suffer from it experience one or more of these underlying fears:
“The Dentist”: Like an IRS auditor, “the dentist” may be viewed as cold or even frankly sadistic. Those who have had one or more negative dental experiences are most likely to develop this fear.
Pain: Painless dentistry is becoming more and more common, but even today, most procedures cause a small amount of pain. People with a fear of pain may imagine excruciating torture.
Gagging or Numbness: Those who have previously experienced trouble breathing, as well as those with a strong gag reflex or the fear of vomiting, may be especially afraid of having their mouths numbed and dental instruments inserted.
Needles: Those with a fear of needles are often highly afraid of numbing injections in the mouth.
Ambience: People who have had poor experiences with dentists may develop a fear of the sights, sounds, and smells of the dental office.
Fortunately, modern dentistry can help. From relaxing music and warm blankets to sedation dentistry, our dentists are committed to making your visit as smooth as possible. Let our office know of your fear when you make your appointment, and we will work with you to help you conquer your phobia.
What options do I have for dental phobia?
Dental phobia is not the same thing as a simple fear of the dentist. Dental phobia is hallmarked by an intense avoidance that leads many sufferers to put off even the most routine procedures. However, dental issues tend to worsen over time. Putting off seeing the dentist can result in extensive procedures that take multiple visits to complete.
Thankfully, there is no need to suffer alone. Those with a severe dental phobia may need to seek treatment from a mental health professional. Those with a less severe phobia, though, may benefit from the following strategies:
Have a conversation: Today’s dentists are extremely aware of the effects of dental phobia, and most are eager to help. Soft music, movies, warm blankets, and other sensory aids are available in many offices. Talk to the staff when you make your appointment, and they can have a cozy setup waiting for you when you arrive.
Explain your triggers: Your dentist is able to make numerous simple modifications to personalize your treatment and help you avoid your triggers. For example, you might agree on a hand signal to let the dentist know that you need a break. The chair might not need to lean all the way back. If you need extensive dental work, your dentist might be able to break it up over multiple visits, or do it all at once, depending on your preferences. Your dentist is on your side, so let him or her know what you need to feel comfortable.
Try sedation: Sedation dentistry has revolutionized treatment for those with dental phobias. If you fear losing control, try nitrous oxide, a mild sedative that is delivered through a mask over your nose. You can pull off the mask at any time, and the effects will wear off quickly. If you prefer to sleep through the procedure, ask about oral or IV sedation. Just remember that for anything stronger than nitrous oxide, you must bring someone to your appointment who can drive you home.
What pain management options exist for dental procedures?
Modern dentistry uses a combination of the latest tools and techniques, along with pain management protocols, to render most procedures virtually pain-free. Here are some pain management options.
Local Anesthetic: Local anesthetics such as lidocaine are injected into the mouth before nearly any dental procedure. Many dentists now use a topical numbing gel first to avoid the sting of the injection.
Sedation Dentistry: From mild nitrous oxide to moderate IV sedation, we can use medications to help you relax and even doze during your procedure.
Over the Counter Painkillers: Most dental procedures result in only mild to moderate pain, which generally responds well to over the counter medications such as Tylenol or Advil.
Prescription Painkillers: For some procedures, such as wisdom tooth extraction, we may prescribe stronger painkillers. Be sure to take them as directed to stay ahead of the pain, and carefully follow all instructions such as avoiding alcohol and taking the pills with food.
What are my sedation options for dental care?
Our most popular option is a single pill you take an hour before your appointment. Your relaxation will increase and anxiety will diminish by the time you sit down in the dental chair.
You will still be aware enough to answer questions from Dr. Schnabel and his assistants. We continually monitor your vital signs throughout your visit. When your appointment is complete, a friend or family member will drive you home. After about an hour, you’ll be alert and back to normal.
Unlike sedation for surgery, you are not totally unconscious, just unaware of the work being performed. This level of sedation works well for those who have a greater fear of being completely “put under.” This fear is typically based on relinquishing control. That’s why conscious sedation works well for most patient anxieties.
Other patients may need to have more work completed in a single visit. They cannot make repeated visits to the dentist, so accomplishing more work in one longer visit with suitable sedation accommodates their needs. And then some patients are resistant to anesthesia and need conscious sedation in addition to the regular anesthesia to have dental work performed. If you typically have a gag reflex, sedation can help you through your dental procedures.
We are one of the few practices in the state qualified to administer a full range of sedation options, including IV sedation. We also offer nitrous oxide (laughing gas) for lighter sedation. We offer this array of options to let all of our patients feel comfortable and relaxed throughout their dental treatments.
Dr. Schnabel is certified to administer various levels of sedation that meet your needs and the appropriate dental procedure you require. We suggest scheduling multiple procedures in the same visit.
Levels of sedation include:
- Minimal sedation: You’re awake but relaxed.
- Moderate sedation: You’re more relaxed and may not remember much of your procedure.
- Deep sedation: You are deeply sedated but can be awakened quickly.
- General anesthesia: You are completely unconscious.
In addition to the type of sedation you are prescribed, you’ll also need a local anesthetic to assist with any discomfort associated with your specific procedure.
Our motto for sedation dentistry is, “Open wide and relax.” We want your experience to be worry free, anxiety free and become a turning point in your approach to the health of your teeth. Ignoring or avoiding dental care can lead to other, more serious, conditions. We want every patient to have the brightest smile and healthiest teeth possible. Sedation dentistry and the variety of options we can provide are our commitment to making your visit as comfortable as possible.
How Does Oral Sedation Work?
Oral sedation is an excellent option for many people who fear visiting the dentist, as well as those who have a strong gag reflex or do not numb easily from local anesthetics. Oral sedation is considered conscious sedation, because it relaxes you and may make you sleepy, but you remain capable of responding to your dentist’s instructions.
As the name suggests, oral sedation consists of taking a pill—generally a benzodiazepine such as Valium or Xanax. The pill depresses the central nervous system, relieving anxiety and making you feel deeply relaxed. You will be asked to take the pill approximately an hour before your appointment, and to have someone drive you to and from the dentist’s office.
You will likely feel tired and out of it for the rest of the day. You should not drive or perform any task that requires concentration for 24 hours after your appointment. You may also experience some side effects such as nausea and vomiting. However, if you follow your dentist’s instructions, you should feel normal again the next day.
Be sure not to mix your oral sedation medication with any alcohol or other depressants. Give your dentist a full list of prescription and over the counter medications you use, and be honest about any alcohol or recreational drug use. Oral sedation is an excellent solution for many people, but is not right for everyone. Your dentist will help you decide if it is right for you.
What should I know about dental IV sedation?
As you might suspect, dental IV sedation consists of intravenous medications that are administered throughout your dental appointment to keep you deeply relaxed. The drugs produce a sense of very deep relaxation, and induce memory loss from the time they take effect until the time they wear off. Therefore, although you will remain conscious, you will likely remember little or nothing of your procedure.
Your blood pressure will be checked both before and after the medications are administered, and you will wear a pulse oxygen meter throughout the procedure. This helps your dental team monitor your health and safety.
The effects of IV sedation take some time to wear off, so you must bring someone to your appointment to drive you home. If possible, have someone stay with you throughout the night, as you are likely to be extremely tired and may have difficulty performing all of the tasks of daily living. Most people bounce back by the next day, but it is best to avoid driving for at least 24 full hours after your procedure.
Be sure to take your pain medications as prescribed, even if you do not feel pain. While you are under the lingering effects of sedation, it is easy not to notice the pain, but you need to stay ahead of it to avoid feeling miserable once the sedation wears off.
Although IV sedation is well-tolerated by most patients, it is not right for everyone. Your dentist will take your health history and current medications into account before making a decision. Be sure to list both prescription and over the counter products, as well as any alcohol or recreational drug use.
Call our office at (912) 354-1366 to determine how sedation dentistry can make your dental visit comfortable and relaxed.