There are several ways your dentist can help reduce anxiety with medications through different levels of sedation. Your dentist may prescribe anxiolytics, such as diazepam (Valium), which you can take one hour before your scheduled dental appointment. The dentist may also recommend conscious sedation, such as nitrous oxide (or “laughing gas”), which can help calm your nerves. You will still have control over your body functions, and this medication is applied only during the procedure.
Finally, general anesthesia, which allows you to sleep soundly, may be recommended for more invasive jaw surgeries or for people with special needs or with intense anxiety that prevents routine care. Some of these options may not be recommended based on your health condition, so be sure to tell your dentist about your medical conditions and medications. Many patients appreciate the soothing quality of nitrous oxide and oral sedatives. It might even be possible to perform a complicated dental procedure with a nap.
If the anxiety is so severe that the person doesn't feel comfortable even going to an appointment, oral medication can be taken before the appointment. The dentist can prescribe medication for patients to take approximately one hour before the dentist's visit. Oral anxiolytics are among the most common options used in sedation dentistry. Oral medications often cause drowsiness, and some patients fall asleep and wake up easily after the procedure is finished.
The dental drugs most commonly prescribed to treat anxiety belong to the “benzodiazepine family”. Medications such as Valium, Halcion, Xanax, or Ativan. These drugs reduce anxiety by retaining and attenuating the activity of the brain's “fear receptors”. Trust us; the fear of going to the dentist is such a common concern that many dentists take steps to alleviate anxiety.