Options for Gentle Dental Visits
If you don’t like dental visits you’re not alone—over 60% of people say that they have some degree of dental fear or apprehension. Dentistry has made incredible advances in making dental visits more comfortable. We have better anesthetics, “Wand” syringeless delivery systems, dental lasers, and nitrous oxide gas. We are even one of the fewer than 2% of general dentists in the State of Illinois to be able to “put people asleep” using pill or IV dental sedation. The quest for gentle fear-free dental visits is our prime concern so please let us know how we can help!
We have over 30 years of experience in keeping people comfortable! See our videos on comfortable dental visits and dental sedation. Also visit and explore patient feedback and reviews for real feedback!
Dental Phobia, Dental Sedation, and “High Fear” Patients
It is estimated that 10-15% of the population is “dental phobic,” and are so fearful of receiving dental treatment that they avoid dental care at all costs. I’ve had some patients say their fear is “paralyzing” and report taking weeks to gain the courage to visit or even make their appointment. Some need friends to escort them in, and even are tearful in the chair on their first visit. Often the fear is not rational with no previous bad experience reported. Others have had traumatic experiences that they cannot ever forget.
Other factors—severe gagging, inability to tolerate conventional anesthetics, “hard to numb,” rude staff or dentist, medically compromised, mental handicapped (such as Autism or Down’s Syndrome adults), embarrassment, and the list (unfortunately) goes on. The fear often doesn’t “make sense.” We usually tell patients to never feel embarrassed or shamed—we’re experts in handling this. See our section on dental sedation, IV sedation, nitrous oxide, and our section of “Comfort Options.”
Dental IV Sedation–How to be a “Painless Dentist” with Sedation Dentistry (“Sleep Dentistry”)
IV sedation is the most advanced technique sedation dentist can use to comprehensively controlling pain and anxiety in dentistry. Intravenous sedation produces a profound state of relaxation. Dr. Gibbs skillfully controls the amount of sedative administered, quickly adjusting the sedation level to the patient’s individual needs. In most cases, amnesia is produced, and patients will not remember the procedures performed. The intravenous technique also furnishes superior pain control.
Less than 2% of general dentists in Illinois have the special training, permit, and licensing issued by the Board of Dental Examiners to perform this advanced sedative procedure. Dr. Gibbs has been trained and certified in the use of oral (tablet) and intravenous (IV) sedation. He is an early member of the Dental Organization for Conscious Sedation, and holds an honorary membership in this association.
Other credentials of Dr. Gibbs include membership in the American Dental Society of Anesthesiology, plus yearly participation in their human simulation training. Not only the doctor but the entire clinical staff receive additional, ongoing training to keep abreast of developments.
Patients for whom IV sedation is recommended include:
- Patients with moderate to severe anxiety, who also require longer appointments.
- Special needs and handicapped patients who need more done during each appointment.
- Patients who want large amounts of dentistry done per visit and need extra comfort.
- Patients requiring complex or difficult dental surgery, where discomfort would be greater.
- Patients who, for medical reasons, need more medications than can be administered orally.
- People who are naturally difficult to numb and therefore need sedation for effective anesthesia.
- Individuals with serious medical conditions who may need access to intravenous medication.
- People who are sensitive to or allergic to conventional anesthetics.
- Patients susceptible to gagging.
- If you are highly phobic and want no memory of your dental appointment
Conscious Dental Sedation using Oral “Pill” Sedation
Oral conscious sedation is one of the newest methods of anxiety control in dentistry. Sedatives delivered in pill form produce a very relaxed state in most patients. Recent pharmacological developments have given dentistry oral drugs which produce deep relaxation while remaining very safe. This was impossible as recently as ten years ago. Many United States dentists practice oral sedation today, though with widely varying levels of expertise.
The first tablet is taken an hour before your scheduled appointment, and the second is given in the office an hour before the actual treatment starts. Sometimes several pills are given, depending on circumstances. If you are comfortable at this point, additional doses may or may not be given, depending both on your doctor’s training and the state where you are being treated.
This sedation technique is very well received among many patients, and is quite effective for short appointments. Oral sedatives are beneficial in several ways, including the fact that they reduce pain more effectively than nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and that they eliminate memories of dental procedures in most patients.
Some patients who benefit most from oral sedatives include:
- Patients whose anxiety is higher than average, and who thus need shorter appointments.
- “Special needs” and handicapped patients who want more done during each dental visit.
- Patients who want a lot of work done during each appointment, and/or those who want more comfort.
- People whose mouths are difficult to numb and who therefore need their nervous system to be “toned down.”
- People susceptible to gagging.
- As a prelude to IV sedation for patients with severe needle phobia.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Oral sedation is most effective for minor procedures and very effective for many patients. If initial dosing fails to make the patient comfortable, additional doses require 45 to 60 minutes extra to take effect. Your appointment may be over by then. Many times we have a patient start their procedure with conventional sedation and if they are not sufficiently comfortable we switch them to a more reliable and “deeper” IV or IM sedation.
Very few dentists in the state of Illinois, less than 2%, are licensed to administer deep or IV sedation due to stringent requirements. Dentists who promise sedation without being able to use these intensive methods may not be able to deliver the degree of amnesia and comfort that many patients are seeking. Be certain your dentist has the training to handle and deliver the degree of sedation and comfort you need!
Nitrous Oxide “Laughing Gas” Sedation
“Laughing gas” and “relaxing gas” are two alternate names for nitrous oxide conscious sedation. This method is a safe, thoroughly tested, and accepted way of relaxing a mildly fearful patient. Nitrous oxide mixed with oxygen is delivered to the patient via a nose piece. Dr. Gibbs regulates the flow of this gas to the patient and the patient can also
control the effect by altering their breathing. The patient does not sleep, instead becoming relaxed and still responsive.
Nitrous oxide is not used as an anesthetic, but instead relaxes the patient during the procedure. The effect is short-term intoxication, which airs off almost as soon as the air mask is removed. We use individual, scented masks for cleanliness and comfort.
One major advantage that “laughing gas dentist” has is that the effects wear off swiftly. Patients are usually able to drive themselves home. This gas can also be used to augment oral sedation, or to have a soothing effect while IV sedation is begun. Laughing gas is effective for mild cases of anxiety, for comfort during longer appointments, and for patients with a strong gag reflex.