A new trend in dentistry-–conscious sedation–is gaining popularity among patients who have dental phobia.

“The sedation changed my life,” says Dolores Mattox, a 57-year-old who, before discovering conscious sedation, had not been to a dentist in 15 to 20 years and had had her teeth cleaned twice. “I never ever thought that I would have the smile I have today.”

To put patients in a state of conscious sedation, dentists administer incremental doses of benzodiazepines. The drugs, which are crushed and put under the tongue, put patients in a sleeplike state, while keeping them awake. The patients’ heart rate and blood pressure are monitored throughout the procedure. While they’re sedated, patients are relaxed and unaware of the pain associated with the dental procedure, but they are not knocked out as with general anesthesia.

According to Michael Schulte, DDS, it’s less stressful dentistry because both the patient and dentist are relaxed and there is no rushing. Schulte says he gives patients with extreme anxiety a dose of Valium to take the night before their procedure so they can get a good night’s sleep. Patients then take a dose of a sedative before their appointment.

Many different drugs for conscious sedation are available. The type of medication a patient is given depends on the length of the planned procedure.

[www.fredericksburg.com, July 16, 2006]