A Guide to Sedation Dentistry

Sedation dentistry is not an option that many patients realise is open to them. Let’s face it, most of us simply assume that a visit to the dental is going to make us anxious and worried – it is just a fact of life, isn’t it?

It doesn’t have to be. There are a number of sedation techniques that dentists can employ to help patients to relax. In particular, sedation is a useful approach when treating people with dental phobias. Many people in the UK suffer from a phobia of visiting the dentist. It often means that they have anxiety attacks and nausea, or that simply their nervousness and tension means that their dentist finds it very difficult to treat them successfully.

In many cases, people with a dental phobia will simply avoid going to the dentist. So any potential dental issues that they have will simply get worse and worse, unless they can find a treatment solution.

This treatment solution could be sedation. When a dentist sedates a patient, they do not send them to sleep. The sedatives used relax the patient so that they do not feel any pain and also do not feel nervous or anxious.

Therefore, sedation is also quite different to anaesthetic. Under sedation, you are still conscious. Under general anaesthetic, you are put into a deep sleep. This distinction is important as there are some dental phobic patients who have a phobia about anaesthetic. There are also others who have a phobia of needles and injections. Therefore, it is important that these patients understand that sedation is different.

There are three types of sedative. With each type of sedative, the patient remains conscious and can still follow their dentist’s instructions. The first type of sedative is inhaled – it’s more commonly known as laughing gas – and even though you are conscious, you may remember few details of your treatment. The second type of sedative is oral (including drugs such as temazapan) and have longer lasting side effects. You will need someone to accompany you to and from the dentist. The third type of sedative is intravenous. Once again, you will remain conscious but you will have no memory of the treatment at all.

This combination of options means that most patients can be treated for virtually any type of dental issue while under sedation. Of course, it does still depend on what exactly are the factors behind a patient’s dental phobia. Many phobias are very complex and require a great deal of understanding before they can be faced.

This is one reason why the use of sedatives should be considered carefully. For many people who are anxious about undergoing dental treatments, sedatives are a valuable help. However, it is also important that you try to get to the bottom of what gives you such anxiety attacks. Even if they are offered sedatives, many dental phobic patients eventually realise that learning to trust their dentist is at the heart of the dentist/patient relationship. This level of trust cannot always be built up if a patient is under sedation.

This is not to suggest that sedatives should not be used. But they should be considered part of an overall treatment for your phobia which includes building an open and positive relationship with your dentist.

Of course, there are plus points in the use of sedatives for dentists as well as for patients. If you do have a patient that is particularly nervous, it has the potential to disrupt your entire surgery. Their anxiety can affect other patients in the waiting area. It can make them harder to treat and so extend waiting times. It can also mean that they do not receive the standard of care that they need, as their phobia makes them very difficult to treat properly.

Using sedatives can help to solve these problems. When a patient is sedated, they will still respond to a dentist’s instructions. Therefore, the dentist can treat the patient effectively and ensure that their teeth are checked and looked after properly. It means that you can keep your practice running smoothly and ensure that every individual patient gets the quality of care, attention and customer service they expect.