Anaesthetists are specialist medical doctors who have undertaken advanced training.
Australia has one of the safest anaesthetic care delivery models in the world. This is due to rigorous, world-class training, which typically encompasses 14 years’ of education – university, hospital and with the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthesia.
What role does a specialist anaesthetist perform?
Your specialist anaesthetist will constantly monitor you throughout the dental procedure being performed, ensuring your wellbeing and comfort. Anaesthetists are crucial for modern surgery and essential for the monitoring and preservation of life during the procedure.
In Australia, dental sedation may be performed by any qualified medical or dental practitioner. However, a specialist anaesthetist is trained and qualified to manage a variety of patients and any rare complications that might occur.
Only anaesthetists are able to offer a broad range of anaesthesia from very light sedation through to general anaesthesia. They work closely with your dentist and can accommodate a broader range of treatments, including longer sessions, which means you can have more of your treatment done in one sitting.
Using their superior experience, they can cater for almost any scenario using their greater range of medications and equipment.
As an alternative to this, some dentists have done further training in dental sedation. Generally this is a two-year diploma course, which equips them to safely provide sedation for a range of patients. Given their relative inexperience with complex cases, most of these clinicians will appropriately limit the types of patients and cases they comfortably look after.
A patient should never allow the treating dentist or their nurse alone to administer anaesthetic. It is very important that patients have a dedicated clinician only looking after them while they’re under sedation.
Can I receive a rebate from Medicare?
When considering the costs of sedation, it is important to look at the out-of-pocket cost, not the up-front cost. Only specialist anaesthetists can provide you the highest rebates from Medicare. Generally the rebate is around $150/h.
Once you consider this rebate, it is not uncommon for the anaesthetist’s fee to be the same or less than the cost of a less-qualified clinician.
Is it safer having a specialist anaesthetist administer IV sedation?
In addition to dental sedation, specialist anaesthetists generally work in large hospitals treating a variety of complex patients, including major trauma and cancer surgery.
Because of this, they are very used to looking after sick patients and ensuring major surgery is performed safely. These same skills apply to patients having minor procedures, such as dental treatment, to ensure their safety and comfort.
Other clinicians, such as dentists who perform sedation, do not have this experience. Although they have training in basic resuscitation, it is not equivalent in the case of an emergency.
What kind of drugs do specialist anaesthetists administer?
Although most clinicians can theoretically use similar drugs, only anaesthetists have experience and confidence using a greater range of medications. Your anaesthetist is well placed to tailor a specific plan for you, rather than a one-size fits all approach. This is particularly important if you have any medical conditions, or you need more or less sedation.
In the rare event of an emergency, anaesthetists are used to administering emergency resuscitation drugs and equipment as they use these regularly in hospitals.
If you have a fear of needles, anaesthetists are experts in administering injections without discomfort, ensuring you feel calm at all times.
When choosing a practice for your dental sedation, it is important to ask whether the sedation is performed by a specialist anaesthetist. If they do not have a FANZCA qualification, they are not a specialist in Australia.
You can check this in a number of ways, including looking up the doctor on www.medicalboard.gov.au to view their qualifications.