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Caring For the Apprehensive Dental Patient

It is common and perfectly normal to have some degree of apprehension or anxiety prior to receiving dental treatment. Some people however, have stronger feeling in this regard than others. These feelings may have been produced by family and friends, or by the nature of the dental procedure itself.


Whatever the cause, apprehension or anxiety, can produce may unpleasant effects including heart palpitations, high blood pressure, upset stomach and  trouble sleeping the night before the appointment. Many highly apprehensive patients avoid dental care for many years until their problems become so severe that they are forced to seek emergency care.

Sedation and anesthesia can make all dental procedures more pleasant and safer for the apprehensive patient. During the procedure, the anxiaty that may people have be controlled by administering sedative medications. A sedated patient will not only be more relaxed but may also have limited memory on the procedure performed. In some instances the patient may also receive additional medications which will place the patient deeply asleep in a state of general anesthesia. In either case local anesthesia is also administered to block the pain sensations during the procedure and to keep the mouth numb during recovery.

Sedative medications can be administered by breathing (nitrous oxide - laughing gas)

Orally( in liquid or pill form)


Intravenously (IV sedation)

Nitrous oxide is the most common agent used to treat apprehensive patients and can be used either by itself or in combination with other medications. Oral medications allows the patient to take a sedative the night before for a restful night's sleep and eliminates the need for an IV. However, oral medications takes time to work and has limits on how sedated you can safely become.

Medication given intravenously (IV) has its effect rapidly so your dentist can give the precise amount needed for your level of anxiety. In addition, if more medications is needed during the procedure, the IV allows easy administration for additional medications. General anesthesia is almost always intravenously. The route selected by your dentist will depend on your current health status and your particular needs.

Depending on the depth of the sedation or anesthesia being used, as well as your own medical condition, various monitors will be used during procedure to ensure your safety. These monitors vary from automatic blood pressure cuffs to the use of pulse oximeters which measure the oxygen concentration in your blood. EKG monitor is also used to monitor your heart rhythm. Your doctor along with her/his trained staff will always be with you and will be observing you closely during your treatment.

The use of sedation and anesthesia in dentistry has a commendable record of safety. This is due to the advanced training your doctor has and her/his commitment to your overall health. It is important to advise your doctor of all medications that you take as well as any changes in your health since your last visit.

For more information please refer to https://www.adsahome.org/