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Should You Be Sedated for Your Upcoming Root Canal?

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So many misconceptions about root canal treatments are based on outdated information. Perhaps your parents or grandparents had a root canal when they were younger, and found that the process resulted in some pain. That may have been true a few decades ago, but times have changed. The precision of the technique, along with advancements in methods and tools, means that after your jaw has been numbed, you won't feel a thing. Some mild discomfort can be expected afterwards, but this feeling won't hang around. And yet, misconceptions can be hard to shake. If you're truly anxious about an upcoming root canal, should you think about being sedated during the procedure?

It's Not Surgery

You may have noticed that the overall process is referred to as root canal treatment or root canal therapy. It's not called root canal surgery because no surgery is involved. This is why pain relief is often necessary, but sedation is not. For most patients, an injection of a local anaesthetic (either lidocaine or a comparable medication) into the soft tissues of their mouth will be perfectly sufficient. Some patients may need additional measures.

Sedation Can (Sometimes) Be Beneficial

Just because sedation isn't necessary for the effectiveness of a root canal, it doesn't mean that it's not beneficial in some other cases. You may have a low pain threshold or some dental anxiety. While any anxieties about a root canal can be amplified by the numerous misconceptions about the procedure, your dentist's attempts to explain the procedure may not be as comforting as intended. You still need the root canal, and so sedation can be wise for some patients.

General Sedation

Sedation doesn't necessarily mean that you're unconscious. General sedation requires a dedicated anesthesiologist, along with the monitoring of the patient's vital signs. For a root canal, general sedation is reserved for patients with cognitive and behavioural issues which might prevent treatment. If sedation should be helpful to you, it's likely to be conscious sedation.

Partial (Conscious) Sedation

Conscious sedation can be applied intravenously (via an injection) or orally (via a pill), but your dentist may opt for nitrous oxide (commonly known as laughing gas). You will be conscious, although partially sedated. Conscious sedation is used for its calmative effect, minimising anxiety about the procedure. You may need to have someone drive you home afterwards, so be sure to check with your dentist.

As far as the effectiveness of your root canal is concerned, sedation is not a requirement. But if you can't shake your anxieties about the upcoming procedure, then conscious sedation can be advantageous. Be sure to talk to your dentist beforehand.

For more information about getting a root canal service, contact a local dental office.