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White pills and a bottle

We recently discussed anxiety in dentistry and the options to provide anxiety relief in the dental clinic. In this article, we’ll describe the methods in greater detail and discuss which types of procedures would be suitable for the form of sedation available.

The most common medications we use for light sedation are Diazepam (Valium) and Penthrox (Methoxyflurane). Valium falls under the medication class of “benzodiazepines” and has been used safely for over 50 years. Penthrox is used commonly by ambulance officers (paramedics) at accident sites for short-term anxiety reduction and is sometimes seen being used in competitive sports like AFL for sports people with painful injuries on the field. It has been adapted for use in the dental surgery setting and works quite effectively producing a level of anxiety relief that most patients are happy with. With this form of sedation, you need someone to take you home after your dental appointment. This type of sedation is suitable for basic types of dental treatment (e.g. scaling & cleaning, simple fillings).

We also have nitrous oxide ("laughing gas") available for mild to moderate anxiety relief. Nitrous oxide is very safe and has been used for over 200 years and is administered via a nasal breathing piece with a mixture of oxygen. Nitrous oxide is a gas so it is metabolised by your body quickly with the advantage being that it is expelled from your bloodstream rapidly. The advantage of this is that you do not need someone to drive you home after your dental appointment, since you recover within 15 minutes of the withdrawal of the nitrous oxide administration. This type of sedation is suitable for basic-medium invasive treatments (e.g. fillings, straightforward extractions).

Conscious sedation (or "sleep dentistry") is the administration of intravenous (into your arm vein) sedation agents - Midazolam is the most commonly used form. This is administered by a trained sedation specialist who monitors your health and vital signs during the procedure who comes to our practice for your convenience saving you the hassle of going to a hospital and having to stay overnight. Most patients are "conscious" and somewhat responsive during the procedure but have no memory of what happened during it. This is generally deemed safer for the patient because conscious sedation rarely suppresses people's breathing reflexes to the deep level where complications can occur. The recovery time from conscious sedation is much quicker as reported by our patients. This type of sedation is suitable for more invasive forms of treatment (e.g. surgical extractions, wisdom teeth removal).

We know your dental visits are not always a comfortable experience. We hope that the above available methods enable to have some of your dental treatments done in more comfort than you've possibly had in the past.