What is Sedation Dentistry?
Does the mere thought of having a fluoride treatment or your teeth cleaned cause your body to tense up in utter dread?
Would you rather suffer the pain and agony of an intense toothache than visit the dentist?
Guess what – you’re not alone.
Many people have a phobia of visiting the dentist, so much so that they prefer to avoid treatment and not go at all.
If you’re one such person, sedation dentistry may be an option to relieve some of your anxiety. Sedation is often used for everything from root canals to simple teeth cleanings. The severity of the procedure and anxiety determines how it’s used.
By using sedation, we can overcome the traumas of dentistry. If you’ve been putting off years of dental work, sedation dentistry can change your life!
Following are five types of sedation:
- Nitrous Oxide + Oxygen Sedation or “happy gas” is the most frequently used sedation method in dentistry. It is simply a gas which you breathe in; it’s colourless, sweet-smelling and non-irritating.
- Premedication is administered by taking prescribed tablets prior to your examination.
- Penthrox (inhalation anaesthesia sedation)
- I.V. Sedation also known as “deep conscious sedation”. With this type of sedation medications are administered directly into the bloodstream by a qualified anaesthetist.
- General anaesthesia can be performed at a day hospital should the need arise.
What Are the Different Levels?
Sedation dentistry is the practice of using medication to sedate patients and help them relax during simple and complex dental procedures.
While sometimes called “sleep dentistry,” patients are typically awake during their procedures. Those who undergo general anesthesia for more involved dental procedures are the exception.
The different levels of sedation include:
- Minimal sedation – When under minimal sedation, you’re relaxed but fully awake.
- Moderate sedation – When under moderate sedation, formerly referred to as “conscious sedation,” you may feel drowsy, slur your words, and only remember bits of the procedure.
- Deep sedation – When under deep sedation, you’re skirting the edge of consciousness but can be awakened when needed or immediately following the procedure.
- General anesthesia – When under general anesthesia, you’re completely unconscious for an extended period of time.
Once again, the severity of the procedure and your fear will determine which level of sedation you will undergo.
What Types of Sedation are Used in Dentistry?
As there are different levels of sedation, there are naturally different types of sedation used to achieve each one.
The types of sedation used in dentistry include:
- Inhaled Minimal Sedation – With inhaled minimal sedation, you breathe in nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas,” and oxygen through a mask. The gas will help you relax, and your dentist will be able to control how much sedation you receive. Nitrous oxide generally wears off quickly. In fact, it’s the only type of sedation in which you can drive yourself home following the procedure.
- Oral Sedation – As its name suggests, with oral sedation, you take a pill. In most cases, the sedation pill used is Diazepam (Valium), taken an hour or so prior to the procedure. The sedation pill will cause you to feel drowsy but remain awake. However, depending on the procedure and your level of anxiety, you may be given a larger dose to put you under moderate sedation. This is the type of sedation commonly associated with sedation dentistry. Some people may actually fall asleep under oral sedation, but they can usually be easily awakened.
- Intravenous Sedation – With moderate sedation, a sedative drug is given to you intravenously, allowing it to go to work much more quickly. This type of sedation allows the dentist to make adjustments to the level of sedation as needed.
- General Anesthesia – As discussed above with the different levels of sedation, with general anesthesia, you will receive medications that will render you unconscious. In other words, you will fall into a deep sleep during the procedure. While under general anesthesia, you can only be awakened after the anesthesia wears off or you are given medication to reverse its effects.
In addition to one of the types of sedation above, a local anaesthetic numbing medication may also be applied to the area where the procedure is taking place. This will relieve any pain should the procedure cause any sort of discomfort.
Who Can Undergo This Form of Treatment?
Sedation is generally appropriate for individuals suffering from anxiety who need help relaxing and overcoming their fears of visiting the dentist.
However, sedation dentistry is also often appropriate for patients who:
- Have a hard time sitting still in a dentist’s chair
- Suffer from a low pain threshold
- Have extremely sensitive teeth
- Suffer from gag reflex
- Need to undergo considerable dental work
Sometimes, sedation can even be appropriate for children who have a fear of the dentist or need help cooperating during their visit. Almost any dentist can administer nitrous oxide, and it is generally safe for children.
For extreme cases and serious paediatric dental work, a paediatric dentist may be needed to administer stronger oral sedation. Oral sedation can be safe when the dose falls within the recommended dosage guidelines for the age and weight of the child.
Can Sedation Dentistry Be Performed By Any Dentist?
The majority of dentists are capable of administering nitrous oxide, pills, and other forms of minimal sedation. In fact, more and more dentists are administering moderate sedation as well.
However, only a small number of dentists who have undergone advanced training and accreditation can administer general anaesthesia and deep sedation as these require special knowledge, skills, and complex techniques.
In most cases, these dentists are in fact dentist anaesthesiologists or oral and maxillofacial surgeons who have been specially trained to administer all types of anaesthesia and achieve all levels of sedation.
Since the use of sedation is carefully regulated, many dentists are required to hold special permits in order to administer sedation.
Is it Safe?
Yes, sedation dentistry is generally quite safe when given by a qualified, experienced dentist. However, with anaesthesia, there is always some form of risk present.
Certain people are also at higher risk of complications than others. If you are obese or suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, you are more likely to experience complications arising from anaesthesia.
We can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure your dentist is well-qualified and trained to administer the sedation you’ll be receiving.
As a smart patient, you should:
- Go over your medical history prior to the procedure to determine whether or not you’re a candidate for sedation.
- Ask your dentist about the type of sedative they will use and the appropriate dosage for your age and weight.
- Research your dentist to find out how much training he or she has had and how many sedation dentistry procedures he or she has performed. The more, the better.
- Receive a form outlining the risks of the sedation and procedure. You should review the form with your dentist and ask questions if anything is unclear.
- Make sure your vital signs are being monitored throughout the procedure. Artificial ventilation, oxygen, and sedative-reversing drugs should also be on hand in case you need them.
At 123 Dental, we believe patient comfort translates to quality care. If you’re anxious about visiting our office, feel free to contact us to discuss our sedation dentistry training, practices, and track record of success.