Root canal treatment patient, 2022
I have always had a strong gag reflex. This has caused problems when dentists have needed to treat teeth deep in my mouth. This came to a head when I needed root canal treatment. The dentist put a rubber dam over my tongue and after only a few seconds I had a violent gag reflex. I was consequently referred to an orthodontist working with a sedationist.
Prior to the appointment, I was asked to complete and return some administrative forms which was straightforward, and to pay in advance. At £300 per hour, in addition to the dentist’s fees, this was a not inconsiderable extra cost.
At the start of the appointment, I met the sedationist who was very reassuring and explained carefully the procedure and what would happen. He gave me the opportunity to ask any questions but I found his explanation to be very complete.
In the dentist’s room, the dentist explained his side of proceedings. In addition to the sedation, but separately from it, he would administer a local anaesthetic into the gum by the tooth being treated. The sedationist checked my blood pressure, having fitted a cuff round my bicep in order to be able to monitor it during the procedure. He unrolled my sleeve on the other arm and found a vein in my wrist into which he introduced a small cannula. All I felt was the tiniest of pinpricks. A few minutes later when everything was ready, the sedationist announced that he was starting the sedation.
I was watching him and then the next thing I knew was that the dentist was standing in front of me. I looked at him and said “When are you going to start?” He replied “I’ve finished!” I had been completely unconscious up to that point. [Other times when I have been under sedation, I was conscious of what was going on, but completely relaxed. Afterwards, I had had the impression of ‘being under’ for around ten minutes, when in fact it had been over an hour.]
After the procedure, I only felt slightly groggy but the staff were very careful with me ensuring that I came to no harm. After about half an hour, my wife took me to a restaurant around the corner for a light meal and thence drove me home. At some later stage, I had a light headache, easily contained with a paracetamol. I slept well over night and took things easy the next day. The day after that, I felt completely back to normal other than a slight soreness around the tooth which had been operated on.
Having sedation had made the whole episode an anxiety-free experience. I would recommend it to anyone who is nervous or who has a strong gag reflex. The extra cost is significant, but in my case I felt it was worthwhile.