The most commonly prescribed dental-related drugs that treat anxiety belong to the “benzodiazepine” family. Drugs such as Valium, Halcion, Xanax, or Ativan. These drugs decrease anxiety by binding and toning down activity within “fear” receptors in the brain.
There are two different types of Benzodiazepines:
- Sedative-Hypnotics: These drugs induce calm, including drowsiness and even sleep. This sleep state is actually a form of hypnosis which is a form of physiological sleep.
- Anti-Anxiety Drugs: These are drugs that relieve anxiety and induce a state of calm and relaxation.
While benzodiazepines act as sedatives AND anti-anxiety drugs, some are highly targeted at areas within the brain that focus on sleep. Others act in a more specific way and target fear centers in the brain. In most cases, higher doses act as sedatives and induce sleep, while in lower doses, they reduce anxiety without sedation.
Benzodiazepines are also Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants (i.e. there can be a decline in blood pressure and breathing). It is important to note that they shouldn’t be mixed with other CNS depressants such as alcohol. It’s important that you utilize the dose your dentist or doctor recommends. It is possible to overdose, and overdoses could lower your breathing to dangerously low levels, which could result in coma or death.
Please note that you shouldn’t travel on your own after you’ve taken any of these drugs. Make sure you have an escort, even if you travel by bus or foot! It’s easy to become disorientated.
When not to take benzodiazepines:
Some of these drugs can affect your liver and heart. It’s important to check with your practitioner and/or pharmacist. You should be sure to inform your doctor or dentist if any of the following apply: known allergy to the drug, narrow-angle glaucoma, pregnancy, severe respiratory disease (COPD), congestive heart failure (CHF), impaired kidney or liver function, depression/bipolar disorder/psychoses, chronic bronchitis and some other conditions. It’s also important to let us know if you are taking other medications. There could be possible drug interactions.
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