Sedation (sleep dentistry)
Sedation Dentistry

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According to a report published in the Journal of American Dental Association, the fear that people have about going to the dentist has remained constant for the past 50 years. However, in the last decade there has been a reduction in the pain that people associate with going to the dentist. While people tend to be apprehensive about going to the dentist, they are feeling less pain. Sedation dentistry, sometimes called “sleep” dentistry is the cause of people feeling less pain.

What is Sedation Dentistry?

Dentists recognize that a large percentage of the population has a fear of dentists and/or dental procedures. Over the past 50 years there have been several methods of sedation introduced into the dental profession. Sedation dentistry simply refers to the use of sedatives during a dental procedure to place an individual in a relaxed state that is light, moderate, or deep. Most people will benefit from some form of sedation. Prior to performing a procedure a dentist will typically talk to the patient and recommend an appropriate level of sedation. Sedation dentistry is beneficial in circumstances where an individual is anxious about going to the dentist or having a dental procedure, has a difficult time remaining still, or has any other issue that might prevent them from remaining comfortable during a dental procedure.

Best Candidates

There are several groups of adults and children that can benefit from sedation dentistry. The main purpose for inducing sleep in a dental patient is to relax them. People who have anxiety about having a dental treatment are the most common to require sedation to help them relax during the procedure.

Certain physical conditions may cause a person to be a good candidate for sedation. For example, people whose body moves involuntary may require sedatives to keep them stationary during a dental procedure.

People who require numerous procedures during one dentist visit can also benefit from sedation.

Sedation Treatment Methods

There are several sedation techniques available for a dentist to use to calm a patient. Nitrous oxide (more commonly referred to as laughing gas”) is the easiest form of sedation to administer and one that patients actually ask for prior to treatment. This form of sedation puts the patient in a state of euphoria so that they are relaxed. The sedative effects of nitrous oxide are instantaneous and the gas exits the patient’s bloodstream almost just as fast.

Dentists also use oral medications to induce sedation. Prior to the dental visit the patient is given a sedative to take a few hours prior to the visit. By the time of their appointment, the patient is in a relaxed state and calm during the procedure. This procedure puts the patient in what is referred to as “twilight sleep.” They will not remember the procedure, but are responsive during the procedure. If the dentist asks the patient to open their mouth wider, for example, the patient can hear and respond to the request. This form of sedation is gradual and more medication may be necessary if the required effect isn’t reached by the time of the appointment.

The two sedation methods mentioned are referred to as conscious sedation because the patient remains responsive during the procedure. Some situations may require the patient to be in a much deeper sleep. A dentist anesthesiologist administers general anesthesia intravenously just minutes before another dentist performs the dental procedures. This method of sedation is instantaneous, but takes longer to exit the patient’s bloodstream.

Important Considerations

Certain medications may interact with sedatives, so it is important to inform your dentist of any medications (over-the-counter or otherwise) that you are taking. You should also discuss any medical conditions that your doctor has diagnosed or that you are experiencing at the time of the dental visit.

Since sedation dentistry involves the use of anesthesia and other sedation techniques, it is imperative that you choose a professional who has received additional training in the materials associated with this type of dentistry. When searching for a sedation dentist, you should inquire about the dentist and his staff’s background in sedation dentistry.

You should also consider the side effects associated with sedation dentistry. Depending on the technique used, nausea, vomiting, or other side effects may occur. People who are administered sedatives for dental work must have someone drive them home and watch them for a period of time recommended by the dentist to ensure that no complications develop.

Sedation is typically not covered by dental insurance. Be sure to determine your financial responsibility prior to your dental procedure.