Do you find yourself getting nervous at the mere thought of visiting the dentist? Dental anxieties are actually more common than you probably realize. Data published in Medical Principles and Practice found that 36% of the population are affected by dental fears and anxieties. These anxieties lead many to avoid trips to the dentist.

If you have a fear of visiting the dentist, you have options. At BiemCare in Vancouver, Washington, we offer nitrous oxide (laughing gas), oral sedation, IV sedation, and general anesthesia. Call us at  360-835-6001 today to discuss how sedation dentistry can help during your next visit.

What is Dental Sedation and How Does it Work?

Dental sedation includes a number of practices that are used to calm the nerves of patients as they undergo dental procedures. Different forms of sedation can be used for short and long procedures “” even routine cleanings! 

Sedatives work by amplifying the brain’s natural sedative, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Nitrous oxide and other sedatives work to essentially calm down the central nervous system for a short period of time. 

Sedatives also have a mild pain-relieving effect since they are partial agonists on the opioid receptors, although sedatives are never used as part of primary pain management protocols. 

Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas)

Often referred to as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide is a gas administered through a CPAP-like nasal hood and inhaled by the patient. Since nitrous oxide is a short-acting sedative, the patient wears the nasal hood before and during the appointment.

Due to its safety and efficacy, nitrous oxide is the preferred sedative for minor procedures and for patients with dental anxieties. 

Depending on your level of dental anxiety (or the complexity of the procedure), nitrous oxide may be administered alongside another form of sedation, such as oral sedation. 

Oral Sedation

Often called “conscious sedation,” oral sedation is typically administered the night before and an hour before a procedure. The most common forms of oral sedation are benzodiazepines including Ativan® (lorazepam), Halcion® (trazolam), Valium®/Diastat® (diazepam), and Versed® (midazolam). While you are under oral sedation, you should feel relaxed and lightly sedated.

Orally administered sedatives are often recommended for patients with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or certain renal/hepatic conditions.

Since oral sedation is long lasting, patients who are administered oral sedation must have an escort to take them to and from the appointment.

Intravenous (IV) Sedation

Intravenous (IV) sedation is a deeper, more relaxing form of sedation. IV sedation is sometimes referred to as “twilight sedation” since it often produces a dream-like state even though the patient is awake throughout the procedure. With IV sedation, patients often “zone out” of the procedure and may not be able to recall even having a procedure performed once it’s done. Since you are technically awake during the procedure, the dentist can help you “snap out” of your sedated state if necessary.

IV sedation is administered by a licensed sedation dental provider. 

General Anesthesia

When placed under general anesthesia, the patient is completely unconscious throughout the duration of the procedure. General anesthesia is not a common form of sedation, typically reserved for invasive oral surgeries and for patients who may be allergic or resistant to other forms of sedation. The most common procedure that requires general anesthesia is wisdom tooth extractions. 

When general anesthesia is used at BiemCare it is administered by either an anesthesiologist or certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA). 

Have a Question?

Do you have a question about dental sedation or general anesthesia? Do you have a dental phobia that keeps you from visiting the dentist? Call BiemCare at  360-835-6001 to discuss how these anxiety-reducing tools can help during your next appointment. 

At BiemCare, all forms of sedation are administered by a licensed sedation dental provider or CRNA/anesthesiologist for procedures requiring general anesthesia.