In an era of stressful health care interactions, uncomfortable medical procedures and nerve-wracking visits to hospitals, many patients struggle with anxiety. Fortunately, advances in sedation dentistry can help them overcome their fear of dental work.

Sedation dentistry is the use of drugs to alleviate fear or anxiety about a dental procedure, such as a cleaning, filling or tooth extraction. The drug may be an antianxiety medication, a benzodiazepine or a general anesthetic. In addition, anesthetics such as nitrous oxide (laughing gas) or oral anesthesia are used to reduce discomfort.

It is a widely accepted fact that patients who feel more comfortable during the dental process experience less stress, pain and anxiety. This, in turn, leads to a better outcome for the patient and more efficient treatment.

This is why sedation dentistry has become such an important part of modern dentistry. Sedation dentistry can address severe anxiety and phobias about dental procedures, as well as a variety of other medical conditions, such as sensitivity to anesthetics, a small mouth that makes it difficult for the dentist to access all areas of the teeth, or resistance to local anesthesia.

Sedation can also be used to provide pain relief for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes or cancer. The pain caused by these conditions can make life unbearable for the patients and can lead to depression or even suicide.

While the benefits of sedation are clear, the use of these drugs comes with risks that must be carefully managed by both the dentist and the patient. Sedation can be dangerous, especially for children, older adults and patients with preexisting medical conditions. A patient’s medical history is important to help determine which sedative will be best.

A patient’s ability to cope with their fear and anxiety about visiting the dentist can be significantly influenced by a range of factors, such as family and friends who comfort them in ways that complement the care provided by staff. Having loved ones nearby helps to promote positivity, acceptance of care and provides an important buffer to the unfamiliarity and uncertainty of the clinical environment.

Patients’ need for comforting care can be triggered at any point in their healthcare interaction. This includes the time between appointments, when they are waiting for an appointment, during treatment, and when they are recovering from symptoms and/or surgery.

Through a two-stage process that began with an integrative review of 62 studies and semistructured interviews, we developed a multidimensional framework representing patients’ perspectives on important comfort-related care: the “Comfort Always Matters” (CALM) framework. Developing operational definitions for these themes is an important next step, along with exploring how staff can support their own comforting efforts, and the extent to which this type of care is being delivered in practice. Moreover, an understanding of why improvements to comfort-related care are not being implemented is vital. This can inform the development of more targeted improvement initiatives, aimed at supporting staff to deliver the quality care that patients want and need.

The Role of Sedation Dentistry in Complex Dental Procedures