Is Sedation Dentistry right for you?

The dentist has long been the butt of jokes because of the pain and discomfort associated with dental procedures. “I would rather get a root canal then go on a date with him again” and many others are probably some of what contributes to the high suicide rate in the dental profession. After all, how would you feel if you were feared for doing the things that help your patients the most!  Fear of the dentist is VERY REAL because certain dental procedures can be uncomfortable and sedation dentistry may very well seem like just the ticket to help bypass that discomfort and pain. Not to add the shock of finding out what is wrong if you have put off seeing the dentist.

In Northern Virginia, and across the country, you do not have to look very far to find a dentist advertising themselves as a “Sedation Dentist.” We all would like to bypass what happens in the dental chair….and other unpleasant experiences as well!

“Let’s face it, the American way is to seek out ways to do things, faster, better, easier and cheaper.” 

Let’s face it, the American way is to seek out ways to do things, faster, better, easier and cheaper.  And while technology is getting faster, with more convenient features for essentially less money, technology becomes more available to more people. However, when it comes to our health, faster, easier and cheaper sometimes can have side effects with potentially disastrous consequences.  Additionally you may not experience the effects of until that dental procedure is long been completed.  Just like you see advertised on TV the side effects of the modern drug.

Well, sedation dentistry is NO JOKE as any time you are sedated, there are consequences and side effects that you should be aware of that are not widely talked about at the dentist office.

The reason for this article is not for or against Sedation dentistry, but rather to give you, the dental patient, an objective perspective on what Sedation Dentistry is and when and if it is appropriate for you or a family member.

Pros of Sedation Dentistry

For young children, it may be the only way that can get the dental care they need. Have you ever tried to get a four year old to sit still? Sometimes, children need to be sedated so that they can be still enough to let the dentist do his job, get out the decay and fill cavities. Without sedation, some children’s teeth would rot right out of their cute little heads.

Special needs patients with mental or physical disabilities can get dental care that otherwise would never be possible. Some patients just cannot control their bodies. If they cannot control their bodies then sedation will allow them to be a dental patient and which would not otherwise be possible.

“Sedation makes major dental surgery literally, an unmemorable experience.”

Sedation makes major dental surgery literally, an unmemorable experience. IE. Placement of multiple dental implants, removal of impacted wisdom teeth. For real, when getting multiple teeth extracted, and 8, 10 or 12 implants placed in your upper or lower jaw and the surgery takes several hours, of course, being knocked out would be helpful, however not necessary depending on the patient,  to get the job done.

Sedation dentistry saves you time.  You can take multiple shorter visits in to one long visit. Who does not like to get more done in less time? I know I do and being sedated can allow just that more procedures done in less trips to the dentist.

Cons of Sedation Dentistry

You are putting harmful chemicals and medications in your body that otherwise you would not be exposed to.  This can have short and long term effects on your energy level.

“When sedated, your salivary glands go into overdrive”

When sedated, your salivary glands go into overdrive producing excess saliva making it very difficult to get an accurate impression for crowns and bridges. What this means to you is the dental lab has to guess and your crowns and bridges and dentures from and impression that is taken by the dentist when you are sedates. The crowns bridges or dentures may not fit correctly causing pain discomfort or early decay. The time you saved, may now be lost.

Sedation Dentistry is not covered by most Dental Insurance so the out of pocket cost to you is higher.

Some patients experience amnesia. Some people are okay with that, some are not okay with the “loss of control” that can come from being sedated.

“Patients may experience nausea and vomiting.”

Patients may experience nausea and vomiting. This can occur during the procedure or during the recovery period. The patient may also be very tired afterword, sleeping for many hours.

If treatment is deviated from the “accepted treatment plant” the doctor would have to stop the procedure safely and then wait until the patient is conscious, 24-48 hours later to make sure the patient is legally able to make a decision about their treatment. You may want to discuss ahead of time what the possible changes in treatment may be with your Doctor to prevent this from happening.

There is no question that for those of us that hate going to the dentist and staying away from the dentist has caused major infection, sedation dentistry may be just the thing that will put you in the dental chair to get the dental work done you need. However, since we are all ultimately the best ambassadors of our own health, it is best to be equipped with information so we can make decisions that fit our lifestyle.

For more information on how to overcome your fear of the dentist without resorting to being knocked out see my other blog article “I hate going to the Dentist! Why don’t you just put me out!

In my experience, which is just my experience and not anyone else’s, most dental fear can be overcome in with four steps.

  1. Talking to your dentist about your fears.
  2. Bring a close friend or family member to your dental appointment.
  3. Take your time and make sure you find an office that will allow you to take your time.
  4. If all else fails, ask for anti-anxiety medication.

Feel free to leave a comment on your thoughts or experience with sedation dentistry. The more you give and share with others, well it’s just good Karma.

If you have any questions about this subject or other dental procedures, please call my office and book your free consult at Sterling Dental Center located in the Cascaded Professional Center behind Home Depot located off Route 7 in Sterling Virginia. We have late evening and weekend appointment to accommodate every schedule and we do all dental procedures from cleaning to dental implants in our office.


Thomas Bursich DDS