How big a problem is dental anxiety in the UK?
According to the oral health foundation, almost half of UK adults have a fear of the dentist. They also found that visiting the dentist is ranked first (22%) for making people nervous- even more popular than heights (19%). This is significant and it is the job of dentist to put people at ease, build a rapport and try to reduce the prevalence of dental anxiety in the UK.
For some, an upcoming visit to the dentist can cause anxiety and fear in the days and weeks leading up to the appointment. The specific thing that causes this apprehension is different from person to person. For some, it’s the needle, others it’s the sound of the drill. Even the fear of an x-ray causing gagging or the smell of the dentist can cause anxiety in some patients.
Some patient’s may never have experienced dental anxiety before- they may never of had extensive treatment before and now the day is looming. Things that they have never been scared of or thought about before suddenly come to light.
How can we help?
In-house sedation can be a perfect solution for these scenarios. It is both effective and safe to use. Whether someone has always suffered from dental anxiety or perhaps feel they need a little something to get them through their first course of treatment, sedation is often a helpful tool. It may also be used if a procedure is going to be a little uncomfortable, for example, extractions.
What is conscious sedation?
Conscious sedation is when a sedative drug is given through a plastic tube into a vein in the hand or arm to help a patient relax.
Intravenous sedation is different from general anaesthesia. Many patients misunderstand and believe they will be put to sleep. This is not the case and is one reason why sedation is safer than general anaesthesia. The patient remains conscious throughout, however are often drowsy, have little awareness of what is going on and often no memory of the procedure afterwards.
What drug is used and what is the procedure?
Most commonly the drug used is midazolam, which is in the group of drugs called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines help to dampen down stimulation in the brain, and therefore help the patient remain calm and relaxed. As it is given intravenously (through a canula in a vein) the amount of sedative drug given can be easily, and therefore safely controlled. This is what we use at Scott Arms and it makes visiting the dentist far less scary for many of our patients.
Once sedated, we still numb the gum close to the area to be treated, to ensure the patient is numb throughout and for a short while after the procedure. Patients are monitored closely throughout the procedure. Afterwards clumsiness, sleepiness and forgetfulness are all very common and are all good signs the sedation has worked well.
Sedation can help patients cope with dental treatment and reduce anxiety. It can help interrupt the cycle of anxiety and patients are often more willing to come to the dentist afterwards. It is a very safe and effective option to ensure patients get the care and treatment they need, as well as being able to relax in the dental environment.