The next time you’re visiting Boston, why not make time for a stroll in the city’s renowned public garden? It’s got a little something for everyone: acres of greenhouses and formal plantings, a picturesque pond where you can go for a paddle in swan-shaped boats, and the first (and perhaps the only) statue dedicated to an anesthetic gas.
Yes, the Ether Monument (also called “The Good Samaritan”) is a vaguely Moorish-looking sculpture that commemorates the first use of anesthetic in a medical procedure. This ground-breaking event took place at nearby Massachusetts General Hospital in 1846. But if it seems that perhaps the park designers were feeling a bit light-headed when they commissioned this statue* then just think of what it would have been like to have a tooth drilled without it!
Today, of course, ether is no longer used for anesthesia; that’s because medical science has developed far better ways to make sure you don’t feel pain when you’re having a procedure. However, we do still use a gas for people who need a little more help relaxing during dental treatment. It’s called nitrous oxide, but sometimes goes by the nickname “laughing gas.”
This sweet-smelling gas, mixed with oxygen, is often administered in a process called inhalation conscious sedation. It doesn’t put you to sleep — you can still follow directions and respond to verbal cues — but it makes you very comfortable, and may even induce a slightly euphoric feeling, which wears off quickly when the gas is stopped. That’s what makes it ideal for some dental procedures: It’s quite effective for people who might otherwise have a great deal of dental anxiety, yet it’s quick, easy and safe to administer — and you can usually drive yourself home afterward.
Sometimes, however, you may need even more relaxation — for example, if you’re having multiple wisdom teeth extracted. In this case, it may be best to use intravenous (IV) conscious sedation. Here, the precise amount of medication you need is delivered directly into your bloodstream via a tiny needle. As with nitrous oxide, you’ll remain conscious the whole time, but you won’t feel any pain — and afterward, you probably won’t remember a thing.
Sedation dentistry has come a long way since the days of ether… but making sure you don’t feel pain or anxiety remains a critical part of what we do. Before a procedure, we’ll talk to you about what type of anesthesia is best — and if you have any questions or concerns, we’ll work with you to make sure you have the best experience possible. If you would like more information about sedation dentistry or relieving dental anxiety, call our office for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Oral Sedation Dentistry” and “Sedation Dentistry For Kids.”
We’re always tickled to see dentists represented in popular culture, especially when portrayed by an actor as handsome as John Stamos. On the hit television show Glee, Stamos played a dentist who made sure the glee club members cleaned up their act when it came to oral hygiene — though perhaps he used a bit too much anesthesia to achieve this admirable goal. While under his care — and lots of sedation — several Glee characters had music-infused hallucinations in which they danced and sang with pop star Britney Spears.
Far-fetched? No doubt. Still, it’s worth mentioning that sedation has its place in dentistry. In fact, if you are someone who tends to get anxious or even fearful about dental treatment, you should know that sedation can help you relax both mind and body so you can feel peaceful rather than anxious in the dentist’s chair. And that’s the whole point: Fear of pain should not stand in the way of your getting the care that will keep you healthy and allow you to keep your teeth for as long as possible.
You may not know this, but when you are afraid, your threshold for pain is actually lower. You become hypersensitive to every sensation and sound, and you tense your muscles. Fear and anxiety trigger the release of certain chemicals that put you in “fight or flight” mode. In this heightened state of alert you experience more pain during and even after treatment.
The good news is that this response can virtually be eliminated with various oral sedatives and/or with nitrous oxide, which is inhaled. Both treatments will allow you to let your guard down and relax. Your apprehension and hypersensitivity to pain will disappear, even though you are still conscious. And when you are relaxed, we are better able to focus on the task at hand, knowing that you are comfortable.
The sedatives used in dentistry have been subjected to rigorous testing and have a strong safety record backed by decades of use. Several even have “amnesic” properties, meaning that you will remember little to nothing of your treatment — unless, of course, you end up singing and dancing with Britney Spears!
If you would like more information about sedation in dentistry, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Sedation Dentistry.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Overcoming Dental Fear & Anxiety.”
Not long ago, a certain Royal Baby made his first major public appearance. At a “crawl-about” in New Zealand, young Prince George (the 8-month-old son of Prince William and Kate Middleton) was formally introduced to the world, along with a group of adorable tots and their proud parents. The press was quick to note not only the future King of England’s cute expressions and his determined crawling — but also the appearance of his first two tiny bottom teeth.
Congratulations, William and Kate — and now, it’s time to think about the taking care of those royal baby teeth. In fact, before you know it, it will be time for the age one dental visit. Why is this so important? Essentially, because proper dental care in the early years helps to establish routines that will lead to a lifetime of good oral health.
It’s a misconception to think that baby teeth aren’t important because they will be shed after a few years. In fact, not only do they have a vital function in a child’s ability to eat and speak properly — they also serve as guides for the proper development of the permanent teeth that will follow. So caring for a tot’s primary teeth is just as important as it is for grown-up teeth.
What’s the best way to do that? To prevent tooth decay, clean an infant’s gums after each feeding with a soft cloth moistened with water — and don’t let your baby go to sleep with a bottle in his or her mouth! When teeth appear, gently brush them with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a tiny dab of toothpaste. At around age two, your child can begin to learn how to brush — with your careful supervision and follow-up, of course.
Avoiding sugary and acidic drinks (including some fruit juices) is another excellent way to keep those tiny teeth healthy! If you do allow any sugar, limit it to mealtimes; this gives the saliva plenty of time to do its work of neutralizing the sugar and acid that can cause tooth decay.
And don’t forget the first visit to the dentist, which should take place by age one! Even at that early age, we’ll make sure your child (and you) feel comfortable in the dental office, and help you get started with the best oral hygiene practices. We will also check for signs of cavities, watch for developmental milestones, and screen for potential future problems.
If you have questions about caring for your young child’s teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment. For more information, see the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Top 10 Oral Health Tips For Children” and “Age One Dental Visit.”