A Natural Alternative
Although people aren't quick to admit it, many experience some level of dental anxiety. Good thing dentists are relying more on oral sedation to help ease tensions surrounding dental treatment. But what do you do if you aren't comfortable with conventional medications? Consider herbal oral sedation instead.
The goal of traditional oral sedation is to put you in a relaxed state -- and herbal oral sedation works to the same end. Herbal medications are taken before a dental treatment to produce a sedative effect so that you feel less anxious, maybe even sleepy. (Remember that herbal oral sedatives are not painkillers. You will still require some type of anesthetic before the procedure begins.)
Conventional Wisdom vs. Herbal Alternatives
A conventional drug is the type your dentist normally provides for oral sedation, such as Valium® or Xanax®. This type of drug is based on a chemical created in a laboratory. Herbal medications are taken from the natural chemicals within a plant. The result is an herbal extract, which can then be used either in its original form, or in combination with other extracts.
Conventional drugs must be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That means that before a drug makes it to stores and pharmacies, it has been proven safe and effective through rigorous testing. Herbal products do not need to be approved by the FDA before hitting stores.
Any claims made on the labels don't have to be proven through testing, either. And whereas most conventional drugs require a prescription from your doctor or dentist, herbal medications can usually be purchased over the counter.
Natural Remedies for Easing Anxiety
Several herbal medications have been studied for their ability to treat dental anxiety, kava being the most popular. Studies have shown that kava does help reduce anxiety. The problem is one huge side effect -- liver damage. The problem is so severe (think: hepatitis, cirrhosis and liver failure) that several countries in Europe have banned its use. Although the FDA has issued warnings about kava, it hasn't been banned in the United States.
These days, other herbal medications such as valerian and passionflower are getting more attention for their sedative effects and ability to reduce anxiety. These herbal medications are considered relatively safe, with few reports of serious side effects. Less severe side effects of valerian may include mild indigestion, headache, heart palpitations and dizziness. Possible side effects of passionflower can include nausea, vomiting, drowsiness and rapid heartbeat. Experts agree, however, that more research is needed to evaluate the safety of these medications.
One reason people prefer herbal oral sedation to ease dental anxiety is that they might not feel drugged after your treatment. In fact, you might be able to drive yourself home. Just be sure to speak with your dentist in advance to make sure. Your dentist can also provide you with dosage instructions. These are usually provided on the medication's bottle, but you'll want to confirm that the recommendation is right for you.
Weighing Your Options
Remember that natural doesn't mean safe. Some herbal medications can actually be toxic, especially if consumed in high doses, when taken for a long time or when used in combination with certain other drugs. That's why it's vital to tell your dentist about all of the medications you take, including vitamins, herbal supplements and conventional drugs.
Don't be afraid to discuss herbal oral sedation with your dentist. Fact is, as herbal medications become more popular, many dentists are starting to use them in their practices. That means your dentist is a great resource!