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Sedation Medications

Your dentist will decide which sedation dentistry drug is appropriate for your treatment plan. Being familiar with the different drugs available can also be helpful for you. There are several common medications prescribed, including, but not limited to

Valium® Halcion®
Sonata® Ativan®
Vistaril® Versed®

With the exception of Vistaril®, which is an antihistamine, and Sonata®, which is a pyrazolopyrimidine (pī-rāz′ōp;ēr-i-di-mēn), they all belong to a class of medications called benzodiazepines (ben′zō-dī-az′ĕ-pēns). Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, agitation, seizures, and muscle spasms. Taken in small doses, they are highly effective at relieving the above mentioned conditions. Each medication's effects last for different amounts of time (called a half-life), so your dentist will determine which one(s) are best for your particular needs.

  • Valium® is the most widely recognized drug in the group. It has been around since the 1960's and is a well known and time-tested sedative with amnesic properties. Valium® has a longer half-life than some of the other medications, so it is particularly useful for appointments where extensive dentistry is being performed.
  • Halcion® is most well known for the treatment of insomnia. It is highly effective when used in oral sedation protocols, and if deemed appropriate by your dentist, can be used in conjunction with an antihistamine like Vistaril® during your appointment. Much like Valium®, it is a popular choice for many dentists because of its amnesic properties and proven effectiveness. However, it has a shorter half-life than Valium® and is typically used for shorter appointments.
  • Sonata® is similar to Halcion® in that it is also commonly used for the treatment of insomnia. It is important to remember though that you are not intended to sleep through your oral sedation appointment. The goal is simply to be relaxed and comfortable throughout the procedure.
  • Ativan® is commonly prescribed for the treatment of anxiety. It possesses many of the desirable effects of other benzodiazepines with amnesic properties. It is an effective sedative with a medium length half-life and is useful for appointments that are longer than two hours.
  • Vistaril® while classified as an antihistamine, has also been shown to have anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects. It works well in conjunction with many of the benzodiazepines but has no amnesic properties.
  • Versed® has the shortest half-life of all of the benzodiazepines, lasting about an hour, and making it ideal for short appointments or simple procedures. It has many of the same anxiolytic and amnesic benefits of other benzodiazepines, but is less commonly used because of its duration.

What are some of the common side effects of the medication?

Retrograde Amnesia or little to no memory. Many of the medications have an amnesic effect. Patients often remember little-to-nothing of their time in the dental chair by the next day.

Less Post-Operative Soreness Fear can make your threshold for pain much lower by triggering the release of certain chemicals in the brain, like adrenaline, which put "fight or flight" instincts on high alert. Anticipation can cause muscle tension, even if it is subconsciously, leading to additional soreness post-treatment. With sedation, apprehension and hypersensitivity to pain is virtually eliminated, thus reducing the likelihood and severity of post-operative discomfort.

Dry Mouth—The sedatives administered during a sedation appointment decrease salivary flow, making it easier for the dentist to do his/her best work!

Is this different than taking Valium® before my appointment?

If you have taken Valium® in the past for dental treatment, than you are already aware of some of the potential benefits of oral sedation. However, there is more to sedation dentistry then just Valium®. Countless years of research have been dedicated to studying and finding methods and new medications to alleviate pain and anxiety since Valium’s® arrival on the market in 1960’s. Additionally, there are many other components of sedation dentistry that are important that make a visit to the dentist safer and more comfortable including monitoring, benzodiazepine reversal agents, patient health history intakes, and drug-drug interaction/contraindication screening. Providing optimum sedation through DOCS’ safe and predictable sedation protocols enables sedation dentists to provide higher quality care to their patients.

What about my other medications, are there interactions?

Sedation medications are chosen based on an individual’s medical history. Many sedation dentists use sophisticated dental-specific drug interaction software that automatically cross-checks your medications (even herbal and nutritional supplements) with sedative medications. In addition to a thorough medical history, drug interaction screening and patient monitoring, you’re ensured oral sedation dentistry is completed safely and effectively.

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