Your dental experience should always be a pleasant one.
Some children & adults become anxious in the dental office and can't relax or sit still long enough for the dentist to treat them. For these children & adults, your dentist may suggest forms of medication that allow the patient to relax and/or become sleepy. This is called conscious sedation, since the patient is still responsive to conversation or stimulation and all his or her protective reflexes are working. It may involve inhaling a gas or an oral medication. Conscious sedation also may be used when a child or adult requires extensive dental treatment or has special needs. Your dentist will recommend which type of conscious sedation is best for your family member.
Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is most often used for children & adults who are mildly or moderately anxious or nervous. It eases their fears so that they can relax and receive treatment comfortably and safely. Nitrous oxide is administered by placing a small mask over the nose. The patient will be asked to breathe through his or her nose and not through the mouth. As the gas begins to work, the patient becomes calm, although he or she is still awake and can talk with the dentist. When the gas is turned off, the effects of sedation wear off almost immediately. As the patient becomes more comfortable with the dentist, nitrous oxide may not be needed.
Nitrous oxide is always delivered mixed with oxygen. To prevent overdose, nitrous oxide machines are designed to stop the flow of nitrous oxide if the oxygen concentration drops below 30 percent. When the treatment has been completed, the nitrous oxide is turned off and pure oxygen is delivered for five to 10 minutes to help flush the patient's body of the gas. The effects of nitrous oxide should disappear as oxygen is breathed.
Children & adults who are more anxious may need an oral medication that is stronger than nitrous oxide. Several medications have a significant calming effect. When choosing a medication, dentist will consider the patient's anxiety level, his or her ability to cooperate and the treatment required. With oral sedation, the patient may be sleepy but can be aroused if necessary and can respond to simple commands. Minor side effects such as nausea or vomiting can occur with some medications.
Before a visit in which the patient is to receive oral sedation, you should receive instructions about eating and drinking, what to expect and what to watch for after treatment. You may need to carry a young patient home after sedation. Your dentist should also discuss how the patient will be monitored while he or she is sedated. You will need to stay for a short time after dental treatment has been completed so the patient can be observed for full recovery and possible complications.
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