What Medications Are Used to Treat Anxiety Before Dental Surgery?

The dental medications most commonly prescribed to treat anxiety belong to the “benzodiazepine” family, such as Valium, Halcion, Xanax, or Ativan. These drugs reduce anxiety by binding and attenuating activity within the “fear receptors” of the brain. Benzodiazepines can have sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic effects. When analyzing fear and anxiety about dentistry, most of the general public has a low level of fear, but can receive dental treatment through several survival mechanisms.

A suggested short-acting benzodiazepine, such as triazolam, in an initial dose of 0.125 to 0.25 mg given 1 hour before the dentist appointment may be effective. The use of sedatives has been shown to be effective and safe in controlling anxiety related to dental treatment. The most common use of oral sedation in adults is to reduce anxiety before and during a visit to the dentist. It is important for the doctor to choose the sedative agent that best suits the patient based on the patient's age, weight and medical history, and not just based on the time required for dental treatment.

In most cases, it is recommended that you don't eat or drink anything for at least six hours before your dentist appointment. With today's advanced options for safe and effective anesthesia, you don't have to be afraid of dental procedures. For some, using oral sedation the night before the appointment can ensure a more restful sleep, allowing the patient to have a more pleasant and relaxed appointment with the dentist. Dental sedation is generally not recommended for pregnant people because some sedative medications can affect fetal development.

Most of the medications used in sedation dentistry are benzodiazepines, which work to stop chemical reactions that cause anxiety and fear. This option is best for people with severe dental anxiety or for those who are undergoing lengthy procedures. General anesthesia in a hospital or ambulatory surgery center may be needed when treating young children, adults with special needs, or people with severe dental anxiety.

Mónica Dahlheimer
Mónica Dahlheimer

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