Is Dental Sedation the Same as Pain Management?

By Aaron Strickland, D.D.S. on September 20, 2018

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With the advancement of technology and the Solea Laser, dentistry is evolving. Painful, anxiety-inducing dental procedures are becoming a thing of the past. Luckily, that means more people will be able (or willing) to receive the dental treatments they need.

However, for people who do have a fear of the dentist or who experience dental anxiety, there is a solution: dental sedation. Although dental sedation does alter a patient’s perception of pain, its main function is to help a patient relax during the procedure. For this reason, we have found that many patients confuse dental sedation for pain management. In this blog, we will compare dental sedation and dental pain management techniques.

What is Dental Sedation? 

There are three main types of dental sedation – nitrous oxide, oral sedation, and IV sedation. Some types may make a patient very relaxed and “dreamy,” and some may put them completely to sleep for the duration of the procedure.

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide, also called laughing gas, is often used for patients with more mild anxiety. It is an inhaled sedative with effects that diminish almost immediately after it stops being administered. Patients using laughing gas often experience no negative side effects and can often drive themselves home following their procedure.

Oral Sedation

Oral sedatives are used for longer procedures or for patients with more moderate anxiety. This method involves taking a prescribed dose of a sedative medication, such as Valium, to help a patient relax. Although oral sedatives take effect quickly, they take some time to wear off, so patients using them will need someone to drive them home.

IV Sedation

IV sedation is the least-used of the dental sedation methods and is typically only used for patients who need significant oral surgery. Depending on the type of surgery and IV sedation used, patients may remain awake but unaware of their surroundings, or they may be completely asleep. Following IV sedation, many patients report feeling groggy and will need a designated driver for the ride home.

Pain Management Used in Dentistry

It is possible that patients using dental sedation methods will not want or need pain management during their procedure. However, some patients prefer to use either sedation or pain management, and some patients prefer to use both.

Numbing Agents

A numbing agent, also called topical anesthetic, is typically a gel solution that is placed directly on the gums to numb the area. It usually precedes a shot being given, in hopes that a patient won’t feel the prick of a needle being inserted.

Oral Shots

 Oral shots are often given after the numbing agent is applied. Typically, the dentist is delivering another anesthetic into the gums to numb the tooth and tooth roots. The dentist will often advance the needle slowly delivering a few drops of anesthetic at a time to numb the area before reaching the final destination. In short, the slower the injection rate, the less pain you are likely to feel.

Oral Pain Medication

 Just because you don’t remember your dental procedure or didn’t feel pain during the procedure, doesn’t mean that it won’t hurt once the anesthetic wears off. Oral pain medication may be prescribed, depending on the procedure. In many cases, over-the-counter pain relievers will help manage the pain as well.

Dental Sedation and Pain Management

If you have a fear of the dentist or have been avoiding necessary dental treatment due to anxiety or fear of pain, talk to the dentists at White River Dental today. We are eager to show you that visiting the dentist doesn’t have to hurt. Call now to schedule an appointment!

Still have questions? We are eager to hear from you! Connect with us on Facebook, submit the online contact form at the bottom of this page, or give us a call today at (812)378-2041.

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