Sleep Dentistry

Do you fear getting your teeth cleaned? Would you rather suffer with an aching tooth instead of visiting the dentist to have it removed? If the answer is in the affirmative, then you are not alone in this situation. There are millions of people in the world who fear dental procedures and all forms of dental treatment. They would rather stay with the pain.

For people who have a phobia of dentists, sedation dentistry might just be what you need. Sleep dentistry can take away some of the anxiety. It can be used for various dental procedures, from simple tooth cleaning to advanced surgical operations.

What is Sleep Dentistry?

Sleep Dentistry

Sleep dentistry relies on medication, in order to help patients relax, when a dental procedure is underway. It is commonly known as sedation dentistry. Despite being called sleep dentistry, patients are normally awake during the procedure, unlike the ones who have been placed under general anaesthesia. Sedation is applied in different forms.

These include:

  • Minimal sedation is where you are awake but without tension or anxiety.
  • Moderate sedation, formerly known as conscious sedation. This way, you may speak during the procedure, but you will not remember anything once the procedure is completed.
  • Deep sedation is where you are almost unconscious. However, you can still be awakened when the need arises.
  • General anaesthesia refers to the sedation procedure where you are completely unconscious.

Sedation Methods Used During Dentistry

There are various types of sedation used in dentistry. They include the following: Oral sedation dentistry

  • Oral Sedation: Based on the total dose administered, it can range from minimal to moderate. If it’s minimal sedation, then you are given a pill. Usually, the pill administered is Halcion. It belongs to the same drug family as Valium. The drug is normally administered an hour prior to the procedure. The drug induces a drowsy state, although you will still remain awake. For moderate sedation, a larger dose will then be given. This is the form of sedation commonly used in sleep dentistry. Some people just require moderate sedation, which puts them to sleep during the course of the procedure. However, they can still be awakened through a gentle shake.
  • Inhaled minimal sedation: During this sedation, you normally inhale nitrous oxide which is also known as laughing gas. This gas is typically combined with oxygen. It is administered through a face mask that is positioned over your nose. This gas helps you to relax. The gas remains effective for a very short period. You can even drive yourself home once the procedure is finished.
  • IV moderate sedation: This is a form of sedation where the sedative drug is administered through a vein. It starts working immediately. The dentist can then adjust the level of sedation, based on the extent of the procedure.
  • General anaesthesia and deep sedation: In this sedation, you are given medications which will leave you almost unconscious or even fully unconscious. You will be deeply asleep during the whole procedure. You can only be awakened once the effects of the sedative have worn off, or it can be reversed using medication.

Whichever type of sedation is used, you will always require a local anaesthetic – a numbing medication applied at the site where the procedure is being carried out in the mouth. It helps to provide pain relief, in case of discomfort during the procedure.

Who Can Benefit From Sedation Dentistry

boy on dentist chair

Sedation is most suitable for people who fear going to the dentist or have a form of anxiety when it comes to dental procedures. With sedation, they can have their dental problems addressed, and they will not experience pain, which is usually their biggest fear. However, sleep dentistry can also help people who:

  • Have a bad gag reflex
  • Have very sensitive teeth
  • Have low pain threshold
  • Fear sitting on the dentist’s chair
  • Require a significant amount of dental work to be carried out

Children are also given sedation sometimes, especially if they fear going to the dentist or they fail to cooperate when they visit. Nitrous oxide is the most commonly used for children. It tends to be safe and it can be administered by almost any professional dentist.

However, there is a small fraction of paediatric dentists who have been trained on how to administer oral sedation in children. Oral sedation should always be administered within the child’s weight and age.

Who Can Perform Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation dentist

Most professional dentists can give minimal sedation such as pills and nitrous oxide. The number of dentists who can administer moderate sedation has also increased over the past few years. However, there is a very small percentage of dentists with the required certification from the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).

Dentists with this accreditation have been trained to administer deep sedation as well as general anaesthesia. They are mainly maxillofacial surgeons, dentist anaesthesiologists as well as oral surgeons. There are certain dentists who prefer to engage the services of a specially trained dentist anaesthesiologist to offer all forms of anaesthesia and sedation to both adults and children.

A dental board has been set up in every state to regulate the application of sedation techniques. In fact, in many states, dentists need to possess the necessary permit, before they can perform any sedation.

Is Sedation Dentistry Safe?

Before you agree to receive sedation, you should also ensure that your dentist is fully qualified and trained to administer the particular sedation. In order to eliminate or minimize risks, it is important to do the following:

    • Before the procedure is carried out, the dentist should go through your medical examination history. The dentist also needs to determine whether you are medically fit to receive sedation and also seek to know whether you are under any medications.
    • You should be given a form detailing all the risks involved during the procedure. You should also seek clarification on issues that seem unclear.
    • You need to determine the level of training the dentist has as well as the number of procedures he or she has performed under similar circumstances. The higher the number procedures, the better.

Bottom Line

Anaesthesia is not entirely safe unless administered by an experienced and properly trained dentist. However if you are one of those people who fear a dental visit and you are physically and medically fit, then sedation dentistry can solve most of your dental complications.