Oral Sedation for Dental Phobias


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The idea that simply swallowing a pill is enough to calm the nerves of the most anxious of dental phobics is an appealing one, and that is in fact exactly what oral sedation offers. Dentistry has an uncanny ability to make the strongest of us nervous wrecks, and while most severe phobias are more specific or have some underlying cause, oral sedation provides a simple and convenient option to get you through necessary dental procedures comfortably.

What is oral sedation?

An oral sedative comes as either a pill or a liquid you swallow prior to a procedure. Most oral sedatives are a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, which are anti-anxiety medications that have been proven over the years to be extremely effective as sedatives. Don’t be surprised if you hear them referred to by names like Xanax or Valium, like all other medications there are specific trade names by which they are also known.

There are two distinct modes of action that these drugs can employ, they act as sedative-hypnotics and anti-anxiety drugs. The former just means that they induce drowsiness, while the latter means, as the name suggests, that it works to relieve any anxiety you might be feeling. While all benzodiazepines achieve both these effects to some degree, what makes each drug different is that they achieve each of these to a different degree. Some will be more geared towards their anxiety relieving effects, while others will be more sleep inducing. However despite these differences, high doses of this class of drugs is more of a sedative, while lower doses are more anxiety relieving.

Caveats of oral sedatives

While very useful and generally quite safe, there are some important points to bear in mind when it comes to taking oral sedatives. Because of their sedative properties, you should never drive or operate machinery after taking an oral sedative. Benzodiazepines act as Central Nervous System depressants, and so should never be taken with other CNS medicines or alcohol. You should always stick to the prescribed dosage of medication as an overdose can affect your breathing and, potentially, in worst case scenarios, be fatal.

Oral sedatives, dentistry, and dental phobias

As you can imagine after reading the above, oral sedation can be a great help for patients who suffer from severe anxiety when it comes to dentistry. Taking a pill or swallowing some fluid is completely painless and easy enough to do, and leaves the patient in a state of comfort and ease that facilitates the treatment.

Unfortunately oral sedatives are quite tricky to use in this capacity because everybody’s ability to absorb the drug through their stomach is different. Different factors like weight, height, and sex need to be considered when the dosage is being calculated, and even then success isn’t guaranteed because your body is different to everyone else’s, meaning that your reaction will be too. Despite this, oral sedatives are used, but where possible alternative forms of sedation, like IV sedation, are used instead.

Herbal sedation

When it comes to herbal remedies, there is more than a little bit of controversy. Most available products, including herbal anti-anxiety treatments, tend to contain a very dilute form of a drug that would achieve negligible, if any, physiological effects. Despite this however, many people who have tried and tested these products claim that they are extremely helpful. It is thought that this might be due to a placebo effect more than anything else. The placebo effect is a phenomenon in which the expected positive effects for taking a substance are experienced despite there being no physiological basis for them.

Bach Flower Remedies sell a product called the Rescue Remedy which is reputed to have great sedative effects with no risk at all of side effects because of its concentration, which makes it a great over the counter solution for anyone looking to try a simple, oral, anxiolytic.


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