Sedation Dentistry is the use of medications during dental procedures to help reduce pain and anxiety with the aim to provide better comfort and experience for patients. While this is often called “Sleep Dentistry”, that term refers to only 2 types of sedation: intravenous (IV) sedation and general anesthetic. There are different types and levels of sedation available and not all options involve you falling “asleep”.
Some sedative medications can be used in the dental chair and others require referral to a hospital setting. They must all be used under the guidance of a qualified practitioner. Here at Beaches Dental, we work with specialist anaesthetist Dr Rachel Vassiliadis, who treats all our patients receiving IV sedation.
Types of Sedation Dentistry?
There are many types of sedation dentistry, each with its own risks and benefits. Each type offers a different level of sedation, uses different medicines, and requires different procedures. Each also come with its own pre and post-procedure management.
Some common types of sedation dentistry are
- Oral Sedation – these medications are used to reduce anxiety. You may need someone to drive you home from your appointment after taking some of these medications.
- Nitrous Oxide – sometimes called “laughing gas”, this gas makes you feel more relaxed, and you are less likely to feel some pain, but you can still tell what is going on. This is one of the most common forms of sedation used in dentistry. We use it regularly at Beaches Dental to help give our nervous patients a more positive experience.
- IV sedation – This involves medication being given intravenously by a specialist. Sometimes referred to as the “conscious sedation”, it will let you remain awake enough to breathe for yourself and respond to commands but also be extremely relaxed. Often one of the benefits is you also don’t remember much or any of the procedure afterwards.
- General Anesthetic – this involves medications given by a Specialist Anesthetist but the sedation level is much higher and must be done in a hospital setting. It will put you to sleep completely and you will remember nothing of your procedure.
Local anaesthesia is still used under sedation to ensure there isn’t pain during dental treatment. Anaesthetics can be applied as a gel or in the form of an injection directly to the gums, numbing the area of application. The dentist will still provide this local anaesthesia even when using gas or IV sedation.
How Does Sedation Dentistry Work?
The first step in sedation dentistry is working out what type, if any, may help your situation. For many patients undergoing simple procedures, they may decide to forgo any sedation, while particularly anxious patients undergoing treatment may need to undergo general anaesthesia. This is not the time to play the hero – dental anxiety is normal, and we can talk you through all your options.
It is important during this time to give the dentist your complete medical history, including telling them if you have ever had anaesthesia or sedatives for other issues. The dentist is then able to assess your suitability for the various sedation options and which type would be most suited for you and your specific procedure.
The dentist will discuss with you what you need to do to plan for procedures that include sedation. In the case of IV sedation, you will need to avoid eating before the procedure and make sure you have organised a carer to take you home and care for you after your procedure.
During your procedure, you will be monitored closely. This may include checking your blood pressure and asking you to respond to prompts. The specialist will also have oxygen and drugs that can take you out of sedation if an emergency occurs.
The length of time you need to remain at the dentist after a procedure will depend on the sedation dentistry you underwent, how well you are feeling, and other factors. If you have had IV sedation, you must have someone else take you home, and look after you overnight. Here at Beaches Dental, your safety is of utmost importance, we have a comfortable area for you to recover in until you are ready to go home.
What Are the Risks of Sedation Dentistry?
No use of sedation is without risks, but these risks are minimised if you make sure to disclose all important information to your dentist and anesthetist. It is especially important to speak to your dentist if any of the following applies to you:
- You have had previous complications with anaesthesia or pain relief.
- You take medications of any kind or see a doctor regularly for any reason, even if you think it might not be relevant.
- You suffer from Sleep Apnoea or have any breathing difficulties
In general, the risks of complications with sedation are quite low, especially when done with qualified professionals. For Australian patients today, anaesthesia has never been safer to use.
Is Sedation Dentistry Right For You?
The only way to know for certain is to undergo a complete examination and follow it up with a conversation with your dentist. Sedation dentistry is not just IV sedation, not there are lots of options available. When it comes to dental anxiety it is as important to treat your anxiety as your teeth. Discuss all your options with your dentist, it is important to not make any decisions before having an open and honest chat about your concerns.
If you are feeling anxious about your upcoming dental procedure, or just want to better understand your options, book an appointment to speak to us at Beaches Dental today.