Sedation: A Necessary Tool for Dental Treatment

By Dr. Vatsal Suthar

Two months ago, it was published that Americans spend twice as much money on high end procedures like caesarean births, joint replacements, and heart surgeries compared to other industrialized nations. What do all of these things have in common? They all require a person go to the operating room and be put under with the use of anesthesia.

Sedation is done so that the treatment can be done quickly, safely, and to allow for faster recovery without prolonged pain. If this stuff was done with the person awake - listening to all the sounds, smells, and sights of the surgery, it would be a living nightmare. Wouldn't you want to be sedated for the most nerve-racking thing of all: getting dental treatment?

While most Indians, as a whole, give low importance to dental health, they all have teeth and need maintenance so they can continue to eat rotis, daal, butter chicken, and gulab jamuns comfortably. If there is a cavity in your tooth that reaches your nerve, it will start to hurt. When that happens, no amount of clove oil, haldi, turmeric, or Vicco Vajradanti will help you. Your only option will be to do a root canal and crown or take the tooth out.

While both of these procedures are very common in most dental offices, they can be a very anxious events for the patient, especially when undergoing a procedure for the first time. Getting sedation is a safe way to reduce anxiety, minimize time for treatment, and increase chances for a favorable recovery period. If you sat in the chair and fought to calm down while the dentist worked on you, your heart rate goes up, which causes your blood pressure to go up.

If you have diabetes, your sugar levels are out of control and you can even develop symptoms like eye blurriness, light headedness, and dizziness. No wonder people avoid the dentist!

The people that avoid the dentist due to anxiety wait until something hurts to make an appointment. Chances are high that one toothache means there are several teeth that also need treatment.

So, someone that is avoiding dental treatment for a long time probably needs to spend a lot of time in the chair. Suppose you needed a tooth pulled and it cost $400. Next time you hurt, you go back and spend another $400.

Then afterwards, your gums are infected and three need to come out and your bill is $600. Who wants to go to the dental office for multiple visits? Wouldn't it make sense to spend your time and money only once and get it done while you were sedated?

I wonder how many women are delivering twin babies on separate visits or men getting one blockage of heart opened then wait few months for the other one...

It is a complete myth to think that paying for sedation is a waste of money. In order to save fifty bucks on laughing gas or couple hundred dollars on getting “knocked out" so many folks force themselves into a bad experience in the chair that leads to them never going back.

Getting sedated in when getting dental work done is a very good option, but unfortunately it is still the patient's choice at the end of the day.

Medical appointments such as colonoscopies, vasectomies, childbirth, and joint replacements all require that you be sedated before treatment. I promise paying a small price now for safe sedation will save you more money (and even more anxiety!) on larger, complicated dental treatments down the road.

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Dr. Vatsal Sutharis a private practice general dentist in Columbia, SC aiming to increase dental awareness for the South Asian Community.