Thursday, February 19, 2009

Conscious sedation dentistry. Or in short, I like drugs. =)

I have always been deathly afraid of the dentist. I grew up an Army and Air Force brat, and no offense, but every dentist I ever saw was condescending, insensitive, and all business. No care or concern for my feelings, and I have memories of pleading for more pain medication, feeling the drill, and needing to use the bathroom going ignored. Once I became an adult, I said I'd never go back. No amount of prayer or positive thinking ever seemed to calm that fear, it was overwhelming to me, so I just avoided it.

I knew I needed to go. I was having some sensitivity in one tooth and could see a cavity in another. I heard a radio ad several years ago for "The Gentle Touch" dentist, who offered conscious sedation, allowing you to sleep through your dental work. I always kept his website in my favorites, looking at it from time to time, trying to work up the nerve to call and go in.

When I finally did about a month ago, I was so relieved to talk to the nicest lady who understood my fear and told me I wasn't alone. I made the appointment for the next day, and I was really happy not to have to wait long and stew about it.

The first visit was scary, and I was embarrassed about having not been to the dentist in so long, having to open my mouth, expecting to be scolded like I always had been when I was a kid. There was NONE of that. Everyone was so wonderful and calming, totally gentle, and everything (getting in the chair, x-rays, etc.) was my choice every step of the way. My dentist is an older gentleman with a soothing voice and quiet warmth, and he just took pictures, told me step by step what he thought I needed done, and reassured me that my teeth looked great for not having been to a dentist in nearly 12 years.

OK, so prep for the actual sedation. I went in a week ago to get the meds and prep sheets. My husband took the day off because I needed a driver and responsible person to stay with me after the appointment. I took a valium the night before to guarantee that I'd get a good rest. The morning of the appointment (yesterday), one hour before, I took two triazolam .25 mg (Halcion) pills. At first I didn't notice anything, but within about 20 minutes I felt sleepy and kind of heavy. I just lounged on the couch and waited for it to be time to go. I kept looking and the clock and realized it seemed like time was flying by.

My husband drove me to the office. I don't remember much about that, or getting inside. When I walked in there was a gal waiting to take me to the chair, and I didn't even say goodbye to my hubby or kids, I was pretty spacey and really sleepy by this point. She sat me in the chair with a warm blanket and put on a blood pressure cuff and pulse oximeter. I don't remember much else until I got out of that chair.

At some point the dentist came in, but I didn't even see him, just heard his voice. He asked, "On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being (......something... I don't remember,) and 10 being you just want to go to sleep, where are you on the scale?" I didn't answer him, and I think that was his answer! I remember getting a few shots, but they didn't hurt, it was more like I just thought, "Oh, shots... I don't think I really like shots..." ykwim?

Then I remember someone asking me to open wider and to bite down once or twice, I think for my crown impressions. I don't remember any smells, sounds, or drilling. What seemed like minutes later, the assistant said something about being done and needing to move to the cleaning. I got up, she helped me to the bathroom (I used it alone, she just guided me to and from) and then they set me up in another room with another warm blanket.

I remember parts of the cleaning, some scraping... but again was just thoughtful about it, "Oh, I'm getting my teeth cleaned..." not bothered.

Again, within what seemed like minutes, the hygienist said I was done and sat me up. They brought me some juice and said my husband was on his way to pick me up.

They helped me out to the van (I could walk, was just a bit woozy) and my hubby brought me home. I had some ice cream and then slept for four hours. I think that's the best (only?!) nap I've had in years. When I woke up I was a bit sore in the mouth and still a bit numb, but by evening I was feeling almost back to normal.

Today I feel great! I had a couple of ibuprofen because I was a little sore where the shots were and my gums are a bit swollen, but overall it was an awesome experience.

I highly recommend conscious sedation for fearful dental patients. It was amazing, 4 hours of work (5 fillings, crown prep, cleaning) done with no pain, no fear, and no negative memory of anything. I hope this post and my experience might help someone who has been avoiding dental work to find a caring dentist and overcome their fear.


April said...

Think I can do it just for the nap? :)

WTG, Shanna! Good job for getting it done! I'm sure that must have been scary for you!

Debbie said...

THANK YOU for your accurate and clear description of my experience with military dentists!!! I dread dentists, too!

Conscious sedation? Hmmmm - I wonder if that would work in other parts of life???