A Dental assistant putting a sedation mask on

Managing Dental Anxiety – Should I Consider Sedation?


Dental anxiety is incredibly common. Some people are so afraid of visiting the dentist that they delay regular check-ups, leading to further complications.

Fortunately, it doesn’t need to be this way.

Dentists are understanding of anxious patients and have several ways of managing dental fear. One option is sedation, which can be used for everything from invasive procedures to a simple teeth cleaning.

Inhalation Sedation

Inhalation sedation involves wearing a light nose piece filled with nitrous oxide (sometimes known as happy gas). It numbs physical sensation and eases stress and anxiety.

This type of sedation is recommended for people who:

  • Suffer from moderate anxiety
  • Have a strong gag reflex

It takes about five minutes for the sedative to come into effect and it wears off quickly after the procedure, allowing you to safely travel home on your own. Your dentist can control the amount of sedation you receive depending on the procedure and the level of anxiety you’re feeling.

IV Sedation

Intravenous or IV sedation is used to help patients relax and feel comfortable during complex and time-consuming procedures. While it’s known as “sleep dentistry”, you’re actually still conscious. It feels like you’re asleep but you’re capable of responding to verbal cues. The feeling of relaxation is often so intense that you can’t remember much about the procedure.

This type of sedation is recommended for people who:

  • Suffer from severe dental phobia
  • Are undergoing intensive procedures

IV sedation is administered with a needle and has an immediate effect. The side effects are longer lasting, meaning you’ll need a friend or family member to accompany you home. A Dr is engaged to provide the sedations, so there are some extra costs associated with this treatment.

General Anaesthetic

General anaesthetics are the least common form of sedation for dental procedures. A general anaesthetic is used during oral surgery for people who are ineligible or allergic to other sedatives. For example, IV sedation can’t be used by patients who are pregnant, suffer from glaucoma or have kidney or lung problems.

This type of sedation is recommended for people who:

  • Suffer from extreme fear, and
  • Are ineligible for other sedation methods

General anaesthesia results in unconsciousness. It can only be used if the patient is deemed a healthy candidate by an accredited dentist, the anaesthetist and the day surgery unit. Side effects may last for several hours after the procedure.

Sedation Alternatives

Relaxation techniques can be useful for overcoming dental anxiety if you’d rather avoid sedation. This includes deep breathing and “self-hypnosis” visualisations. You could also listen to relaxing music, audiobooks or even hypnosis tapes before and during the procedure.

Try not to arrive at the dental office too early. Sitting in the waiting room for a long time can create a build-up and increase anxiety. Book an appointment first thing in the morning so you’re not thinking about it all day and aren’t affected by the stresses of the day.

Talk to Your Dentist

If you suffer from dental anxiety, don’t be embarrassed to communicate this to your dentist. They will find the most appropriate and effective solution for you. Regular visits to the dentist will help manage and alleviate your anxiety while keeping your teeth and mouth healthy.

At My Dentist@Applecross, we strive to help patients feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible. If sedation or sleep dentistry is right for you, we can recommend the most suitable approach. Contact us today for exceptional dental care and a friendly, caring approach.

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