People are often a little apprehensive when they visit their dentist – and while most people overcome this fear, many do not. Dental phobia is extremely common but it no longer needs to be a barrier to dental treatment. Sedation dentistry, often misleadingly called “sleep dentistry”, makes patients feel more relaxed and at ease, removing an unnecessary barrier to undergoing dental treatment.
What is sedation dentistry?
Sedation dentistry involves the administering of a sedative to an anxious dental patient. The patient is not asleep and is still able to cooperate in their treatment. One of two techniques is used. The most common approach, used on patients who are generally fit and well, is intravenous sedation. It is usually delivered via a small plastic tube connected to a needle given in the back of the hand or in the arm. A sedative medication is delivered via the tube, with the amount based on the patient’s individual need (minimal, moderate or deep).
For patients who are anxious about needles, we sometimes use inhalation conscious sedation, whereby a sedative gas is administered via a mask. Intravenous conscious sedation usually achieves a deeper sedation than inhalation conscious sedation, with most intravenous patients having little memory of the dental experience, even though they are awake throughout. This technique is ideal for patients with strong dental phobia who need prolonged or more invasive procedures, including the treatment of multiple teeth at different locations in the mouth.
Who might benefit from sedation dentistry?
Almost any patient who is in need of dental treatment for health or cosmetic reasons but has anxiety or fear about the procedure is likely to benefit from conscious sedation. Beneficiaries include any patient who:
- has high anxiety about dental visits
- has suffered traumatic dental experiences in the past
- is receiving invasive procedures such as multiple extractions or dentistry in multiple sites
- experiences difficulty achieving numbness
- has a severe or strong gag reflex or worries about gagging during impressions for crown and bridgework
- is afraid of needles in the mouth
- dislikes the noises or smells often associated with dental care.
Why would I choose sedation dentistry over a general anaesthetic?
There are four main reasons.
- Safety. As patients are technically awake they are still very much in control of their own protective reflexes such as coughing and gagging.
- Communication maintained. Although you are technically awake, albeit unlikely to remember the procedure, you are able to tell us of any concerns and we can offer reassurances and alter your care accordingly.
- Reduced cost.
- Quicker recovery and discharge home. Your treatment goes smoothly with no interruptions.
Who administers sedation at Smile Solutions?
Our dedicated sedation team consists of a skilled consultant anaesthetist, a highly experienced sedation dentist and a senior dental assistant. All have many years’ experience caring for patients with dental phobia and will do whatever they can to make your dental treatment relaxed and calm.
And what about costs?
The costs of the sedation dentistry is additional to the fee for the treatment itself. You can expect to pay about $600 per hour of sedation. There is a minimum of one hour and the charges are applied in quarter hour increments after that. The good news for patients at our clinic is that because you are being treated by specialist anaesthetist you are eligible for a Medicare rebate of about a quarter of the costs.