Is sedation the same as laughing gas (nitrous oxide)?
This is a common question from patients with dental anxiety. Oral sedation IS completely different from nitrous oxide--from a patient experience, physiological, and even legal, standpoint.
We recently saw a patient who was so anxious that even with nitrous oxide, having a cleaning procedure done was a stressful and uncomfortable ordeal. She would lose sleep and spend days worrying about her upcoming appointments. She wanted to take care of her teeth and have necessary dental procedures performed, but the anxiety associated with dental work was stopping her.
This patient decided to take advantage of oral sedation to overcome her severe anxiety. We completed the necessary procedures over multiple appointments. At the first appointment, she arrived nervous and apprehensive. We seated her and set up the necessary monitoring systems and turned on some quiet, peaceful music. After providing an appropriate dose of medication, she drifted into a peaceful sleep. We completed her first group of procedures and woke her up and she was amazed that she hadn’t noticed anything during the appointment.
At her second sedation appointment, she arrived very relaxed, confident that she wouldn’t experience any pain or notice she was at the dentist. She didn’t waste time or energy worrying during the days leading up to the appointment and didn’t lose any sleep the preceding nights. What a difference! She was so thankful for the chance to have multiple crowns and fillings completed without the typical anxiety before and during the appointment. Again, she slept through her procedures and woke up without any memory of the appointment.
Some patients are nervous about specific procedures, and while they do not need sedation for fillings or cleanings, they want to sleep through an appointment that involves an extraction or multiple crowns. Just as the patient described above, they can undergo the procedures they need and want without the worry and loss of sleep before their appointments.
Anyone who has used nitrous oxide to relieve anxiety can certainly appreciate the substantial improvement afforded by oral sedation!