By Amanda Kaestner
Oh yeah, that’s all we need.
Back in 2006, a research psychiatrist at the National Center for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, H. Stefan Bracha, M.D., suggested upsetting dental experiences could install PTSD in patients, which might then last their entire lives. Along with another couple of miscreants, Bracha advised that any caption including the word “phobia,” or “anxiety,” wasn’t humorless enough to describe the unfounded fear of our selfless, albeit remarkably remunerative, healing art.
What, then, is it exactly that sends our patients into states comparable with returning warriors who’ve experienced an imminent threat of death on the battlefield?
Thanks Again, Sir Larry
Well, patients who are edging onto the chair for an invasive procedure, obviously enough, are more fearful than those who’re scheduled for a cleaning (though we’ve all seen hygienists who seem determined to even out that particular playing field).
Assuming the dentist is warm and caring, rather than emulating Sir Larry, better known as Laurence Olivier’s character Christian Szell in 1976’s Marathon Man, the single most intimidating factor may well be unconsciousness. When you’re out, you’re unable to inhibit a negative event or experience. It’s not so much that patients expect us to slip ’em a roofie and wreak havoc with their innocence, it’s just that – in all fairness – being utterly helpless is an intimidating event for most animals. It’s lack of control… it’s…
Sedation and Anesthesia
Choose your poison. Of the several methods of dentistry sedation that ensure reciprocity on the recliner, each has its proponents, but most have problems, too.
Local Anesthesia. The injection of local anesthetic directly into the area where the work’s to be carried out; this blocks nerve impulses, thus moderating or eliminating pain signals. But it’s the jab, man. The. Jab. That needle heading inbound at their head is, for many patients, the very image which sets off their trip-hammering heart. Not nice.
Inhalation Sedation. Nitrous oxide/oxygen is a great deal of fun at frat parties, sure. It has its place in our surgeries, also, after the light-headedness and giggles give way to euphoria and sleepiness. Improperly administered, though, adverse effects can range from vertigo and nausea, through active vomiting to hallucinations and unexpected flash-backs (and couldn’t we expect that to bring on driver lawsuits, were the fact widely known).
Intravenous General Anesthesia. Voila! The Cadillac of the comatose. An intravenous (IV) catheter is inserted into a vein and from there, an infinitely-controllable amount of anesthetic happiness is introduced. Just a few good drips and the patient is in a safe state of unconsciousness, allowing the professionals to get to work without any major side effects after all procedures are said and done. To the patient’s benefit, there’s no sensation of pain at all, and no memory exists afterward of the entire time he or she was “under.” More and more practices are looking to this form of sedation as being their one and only form because it’s just that safe, comforting, and effective. For example, Advance Dentistry, a well-known practice in Cincinnati, has found that IV sedation helps the dentist because it reduces the risk of movement, and it provides maximum comfort (or minimal discomfort, I suppose) to the patient no matter how much work he or she may need done. It’s not uncommon to see IV sedation being their primary option for dental anesthesia. Furthermore, recovery from this form of anesthesia is typically swift and complete, with little or no “hangover” effect as one would see in the other forms listed earlier, so the patient’s free access to their credit card is seldom impacted.
We’ve come a long way since the early 19th century where anesthesia wasn’t even a thing in any surgical practices, much less dentistry. But thanks to Horace Wells first introducing nitrous oxide to his procedures back in 1845, we can honestly say that going to the dentist in today’s world really isn’t that scary of a thing. So look at your options when you go to the dentist and ask about other forms of sedation. It’s a far cry from “pass the liquor and bite down hard on this stick and let’s hope we don’t have to amputate anything from aftermath infection.”