Sedation dentistry is often hailed as a solution to all of a patient’s problems regarding dental therapies. It can address anxiety, fear, stress and pain. It can provide a comfortable experience for the dental patient, allowing the dental professional to work safely and quickly. As with any pharmacological agent, there are risks, and before you agree to any sedation dentistry option, it is smart to educate yourself about some of those risks.
While single doses of oral sedatives such as Valium or Halcion are unlikely to harm a patient, there are concerns regarding multiple doses of these drugs that could potentially cause a patient to be overly sedated, or even completely unconscious. Because each patient has a different metabolism, drugs can take between twenty minutes and an hour to become fully effective.
These time-delay issues are not problematic for inhaled sedation or for IV sedation, as these types of sedation dentistry are effective almost instantaneously. For oral sedation, however, a dentist who administers more than one pill could cause an overdose if the medicine kicks in at the same time. Most dentists lack both the equipment and the training to effectively and quickly address an overdose in a patient who is unconscious.
In 2000, a group known as the Dental Organization for Conscious Sedation was launched. Its purpose is to train dentists on sedation dentistry methods such as how to properly monitor a patient during a dental procedure to ensure that their heart rates and oxygen levels are healthy. Despite this, there are still concerns about adverse effects of adults with oral conscious sedation. There have been no reported adult deaths from overdosing; however, some children have died from oral sedation, leading to the practice being recommended only for adults.
If you are about to undergo a prolonged dental procedure, or if you are considering sedation dentistry to address personal anxiety or a dental phobia, look for a dentist who has received training in sedation dentistry and has high levels of experience to ensure that your procedure is as safe and comfortable as possible.
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