You’ve probably seen videos of people acting loopy or funny after being sedated at the dentist for a procedure like wisdom tooth extraction. And you may be wondering why sedation makes people act strange. What’s the reason behind this phenomenon, and why is it helpful for dentistry? In this blog from Skutak Dental, we’ll answer that question and discuss why sedation makes us act funny.
As you may already know, the helpful effects of dental sedation boil down to the same basic process, no matter what type of sedative is used. Sedatives used in dentistry affect certain parts of the brain and certain brain chemicals. In turn, this alters your state of consciousness and your behavior.
In the case of nitrous oxide, the inhalation of laughing gas blocks certain “neurotransmitters” in the brain that cause anxiety, and also releases norepinephrine, a brain chemical that reduces pain and discomfort and helps you feel comfortable and relaxed.
Oral conscious sedation, which typically uses a benzodiazepine-based medication, also changes brain activity by increasing the effects of a brain chemical called gamma amino butyric acid, or “GABA” for short. This helps reduce anxiety and can also affect your memory, emotions, and ability for rational thought.
First, it’s important to note that different types of sedation have different effects. At our office, we offer both nitrous oxide sedation (laughing gas) and oral conscious sedation, which uses a pill-based sedative.
Nitrous oxide tends to make you feel a bit funny and “floaty.” You may even laugh at things that are happening around you, which is why it’s also called “laughing gas.” However, this change in consciousness is very short-lived.
The effects of laughing gas will wear off within about 5 minutes after your procedure is over, and you’ll feel normal and will be able to do things like operate a car and return to work. You may feel a little nauseated or confused for a bit, but this wears off quickly.
Oral conscious sedation has deeper and more long-lasting effects. It can last up to 4-6 hours or longer after your procedure, and the benzodiazepine-based medication may interfere with your short-term memory, lead to problems with decision-making, and alter your emotional state, which is why you may see lots of videos of people acting strange or irrationally after sedation at the dentist. Their brain chemistry is still being altered by the medication they took for their procedure.
This is also why you should not operate a car or heavy machinery after you have been sedated with oral conscious sedation. You will need someone to drive you home after your treatment and to take care of you for the rest of the day, because your mental functions, including rational decision-making, may be significantly impaired.
Sedation dentistry can be very beneficial for anyone who has dental anxiety, or who is very nervous about dental surgery like a tooth extraction or dental implant surgery. If you’re interested in dental sedation or have more questions, feel free to contact Skutak Dental online or give us a call at (715) 355-4433. Dr. Lisa Skutak is an expert in sedation dentistry in Rothschild, and can help you decide if it’s right for your situation.