The idea of going to the dentist may not exactly excite people, but for some, the thought of sitting in that chair can cause more than a normal amount of anxiety. In fact, dental phobia exists and, according to Harvard Health, 13 to 24 percent of people in the world have it. For these individuals, going to the dentist is terrifying. However, they, like everyone else, need regular oral care. A relatively new practice has emerged to cater to those who experience anxiety when scheduling a dental appointment: relaxation dentistry.
What is relaxation dentistry?
Relaxation dentistry (also called sedation dentistry) uses sedative methods to provide a calm atmosphere at the dentist. Patients may be given sedatives through an IV, but for those who don't like the idea of being hooked up like that, needle-free methods are also available. In fact, oral sedation, in which patients receive medication through the mouth, is the most common practice.
According to the Chicago Tribune, relaxation dentistry utilizes only the lowest dose of sedatives that a doctor can provide, while sedative dentistry may encompass more potent medication.
"Sedation is a continuum," Dr. Peter Tomaselli, dentist at Chicago Smile Design, told the source. "We stay very, very far to the conscious end of things and far away from the unconscious end of things."
The benefits of sedation
Sedation dentistry appeals to people because it's a seemingly quick experience. Patients note that they feel they've slept through the appointment or that the time spent at the dentist was much shorter than it actually was. The reality is that patients actually maintain consciousness, but the medication makes them feel sleepy or that time is passing quickly.
This provides a variety of benefits. For starters, people who are afraid of going to the dentist are able to relax and speed through the process. Additionally, dentists can get more done. Usually, some procedures are broken up into several appointments. For instance, a patient who has multiple cavities may have to come in for each individual filling because they can't sit through all the work at once. However, sedation dentistry enables doctors to perform all the necessary work in fewer appointments, as their patients are able to lay happily in the chair for longer periods of time.
Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of sedation dentistry is that it helps patients get the routine oral care doctors recommend with relative ease. Those who put off appointments until something hurts can feel comfortable visiting their dentist every six months, preventing issues before they occur.
The Chicago Tribune also noted that sedation dentistry is heavily regulated to ensure the procedure is safe. Illinois dentists, for example, have to undergo 75 hours of supervised training before they can earn a permit to practice sedation dentistry.
How to know if it's right for you
Only you can say whether sedation dentistry is a good fit. However, if you avoid going to the dentist because of anxiety, it may be worth the effort. Remember, routine oral care helps prevent major issues, so going to your dentist often can reduce the amount of big procedures you may have to have done.