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Conscious Sedation • Treating Fearful Patients

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Conscious Sedation: What Patients Should Expect

What is Conscious Sedation?


Conscious sedation induces an altered state of consciousness that dulls any sensation of pain or and discomfort and may also cause the patient to forget the treatment. If a patient anticipates that a dental procedure would otherwise be painful or stressful, conscious sedation is an excellent option.

Conscious sedation differs from the general anesthesia that needs to be administered in a hospital or similar setting. Conscious sedation can safely be administered on an outpatient basis, with basic training that is available to dentists, and some extra monitoring equipment. What makes conscious sedation safer than general anesthesia is that protective reflexes (such as coughing to clear the airway, for example) are completely functional and vital functions do not have to be supported artificially. The patient, however, is so sleepy and relaxed that he or she will probably be indifferent to the dental treatment. The memory of treatment may be spotty. Patients who receive conscious sedation usually are able to speak and respond to verbal cues throughout the procedure, communicating any discomfort they experience to the provider.

When is Conscious Sedation Administered?
Conscious sedation is frequently administered for oral surgery procedures, including the extraction of impacted wisdom teeth. Conscious sedation can also be used when there is extensive dental restorative work to be performed. Conscious sedation will help the patient tolerate a lengthy, possibly all-day or half-day appointment that he or she would otherwise have difficulty tolerating.

Conscious sedation is also administered for anxious patients who have difficulty tolerating any type of dental care.

Who Should Monitor Conscious Sedation?
Because it is possible for patients to slip into unresponsiveness, proper monitoring of conscious sedation is necessary. Healthcare providers monitor patient heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, oxygen level and alertness throughout and after the procedure. The provider who monitors the patient receiving conscious sedation remains with the patient at all times during the procedure.

What are the Side Effects of Conscious Sedation?
A period of amnesia during and after the procedure may follow the administration of conscious sedation. Occasional side effects may include headache, hangover, nausea and vomiting or unpleasant memories of the surgical experience.

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