Most commonly, oral sedation (usually in the form of anti-anxiety or “happy pills”) is prescribed for relieving anxiety in the hours immediately before and during a dental appointment. It can also be taken the night before the appointment, an hour before going to bed, can help with falling asleep and getting some rest.
(Benzodiazepines or “Benzos”)
In dentistry, the most commonly prescribed drugs for anxiety belong to the “benzodiazepine” family. You’ve probably heard of them by their trade names – for example, Valium, Halcion, Xanax, or Ativan.
Benzos directly and efficiently decrease anxiety by binding with receptors in the brain which tone down activity in those parts of the brain responsible for fear.
Oral Sedation – A Hit-And-Miss Affair?
One problem associated with oral sedation is that it can be a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. Basically, you don’t know how well the drug will be absorbed from the stomach. Because the response to a drug is unpredictable anyway, you have to tailor the dose such that the 25% of people most susceptible to the drug won’t get an overdose. But that means that the 25% who are least susceptible won’t get enough… Body weight, height, or gender are not good indicators of how high the “ideal dose” should be, because the drug exercises its effects on the nerve cells in the brain. So, if you’re quite large, don’t take a little extra “just in case”. A standard dose might have virtually no effect on a petite female, but a large guy might be totally zonked after taking the same dose!
Other factors which might affect the efficacy of the drug include whether you want it to work and your (and your doctor’s/dentist’s!) belief that it will work (the so-called “placebo effect”, which, by the way, has been shown to work even if you’re aware of it). If you don’t want the drug to work, for example because you’re scared of losing control, your brain will try and fight the effects of the drug. As a result, you may not experience much of an effect at all, or else experience the effect as unpleasant. In which case, oral sedation may not be for you.
Instructions For Before Your Appointment
- Please do not eat or drink anything 4 hours prior to your appointment.
- Please make sure that you have an escort to bring you in and take you home.
- If you are on any antidepressant medication do not take it the morning or night before your appointment.
- Do not take any recreational drugs on the morning of your appointment.
- Call the surgery the night before your appointment to verify when you take your sedation pills.
Instructions For After Your Appointment:
- Have your escort take you home and rest for the remainder of the day.
- Have an adult stay with you until you’re fully alert.
- Don’t perform any strenuous or hazardous activities and don’t drive a motor vehicle for the rest of the day.
- Don’t eat a heavy meal immediately. If you’re hungry, eat something light, e.g. liquids and toast.
- If you experience nausea, lie down for a while or drink a glass of coke.
- Don’t drink alcohol or take medications for the rest of the day unless you’ve contacted your dentist first.
- Take medications as directed by your dentist.
- If you have any unusual problems, call your dentist.