Oral Sedation (Sleep Dentistry)

Are you the world’s biggest coward when visiting the dentist? Do your fingers shake even dialing the phone or Googling the word “Dentist”? You may be the perfect candidate for Sedation Dentistry. Dr. Tam Nguyen is presently Board Certified to put patients under anesthesia (oral conscious) sedation, which is commonly referred to in dental practices as “Sleep Dentistry.”

Sedation Dentistry

There are many advantages to “Sleep Dentistry” Some of these are:

  • Treatment is completed when you are in a completely relaxed (sleeping) mood.
  • No problem in getting comfortable in the dental chair as you are asleep!
  • Multiple oral treatments and complete full-mouth restorations can occur simultaneously in the same visit.
  • Less time in the chair; less discomfort after treatment.

Anti-Anxiety Medications for the DentistAnti-Anxiety Medications

There are plenty of medications in your dentist’s anti-anxiety arsenal. Some are commonly prescribed. These drugs generally belong to the “benzodiazepine” genre. These drugs generally consist of Valium, Halcion, Xanax, or Ativan. They work by decreasing anxiety as they bind and tone down activity which comes from the brain’s “fear” receptors.

There are two different classes of benzodiazepines. The first class is sedative-hypnotic which calm a person down and can even put them to sleep. The sleep state obtained by these is a form of hypnosis which is a form of physiological sleep. The second class of benzodiazepines is the anti-anxiety drugs. These benzos tend to reduce anxiety and also create a state of calmness and relaxation. When a benzo acts as a sedative AND works as an anti-anxiety med, they also can be targeted at areas within the brain which generally focus on sleep. In low doses they simply reduce anxiety and do not sedate.

While nitrous oxide is fast acting and has no side effects, benzodiazepines have minimal side effects. They are also a central nervous system depressant which means that there can be a reduction in blood pressure and breathing effort. One cannot imbibe in alcohol and also take a benzodiazepine to relax at the dental office. The dosing should be exactly as the dentist has ordered when prescribed benzos to take with you home and it is an important safety tip to the patient that benzodiazepines and alcohol do not mix well and alcohol should be avoided when on this particular medication.

If a patient is given anti-anxiety medication in a dental office by a dental health provider, they will need to have an escort to provide safe transportation home.

When a patient cannot take benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety medications)

There are rare times when such medications are contra-indicated (meaning…the cost of the side effects is greater than the benefit the drug would provide). It is important to check with your health care provider or pharmacist before taking any benzodiazepines because there are known side effects including damage to liver and heart and the propensity for addiction.

It is also important to fill out the patient information questionnaire that has been given to you by your dental health care provider accurately and completely noting current medications and allergies to medications. Armed with that medication information, the dentist can explain any contraindications to anti-anxiety medications which may arise because of your current medication regimen. In other words, there may be a conflict between the medications you are currently taking and medications that the dentist may want to provide to you for relaxation in the dental chair. Be sure to note all current medications to the administrative team when they ask.