Sedation dentistry helps patients to relax by reducing their perception of environmental stimuli such as noise, smell or discomfort. You will still be aware of your surroundings and able to answer questions.

Benefits of sedation.

Studies suggest that 1 in every 5 patients are anxious about their dental visits. For these individuals, sedation dentistry can make their visits more comfortable and enable their dentist to deliver care more efficiently. The increased patient tolerance may also increase the number of procedures possible within a single visit, without sacrificing either patient safety or clinical quality. Our experience is that many anxious or busy patients would prefer to receive their care in as few visits as possible.

Different types of sedation.

Sedatives can be given to patients using a variety of methods, including by mouth, under the tongue, inhaled through the nose or through the veins. The type of sedation that the dentist prescribes will depend on the procedure being performed, the patient’s overall health and any other medication they are taking.

Oral sedation

Oral sedation is a convenient method for some patients as the sedative can be swallowed whole or placed under the tongue (after crushing) to be absorbed into the bloodstream. It does not require any special equipment and cost very little. Benzodiazepines are the most common class of sedatives used today. They have been used for almost half a century and have a relatively low incidence of side effects or adverse reaction with other medications. The main disadvantage of the technique is that it is not very precise, as the sedative effect can be variable between patients.

Inhalational sedation

Inhalational sedation is one of the mildest forms of sedation available. It is administered by the patient breathing a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen. The gas mixture is commonly referred to as ‘laughing gas’ in many parts of the world because some patients feel so giddy and ecstatic that they often giggled. This technique is used to calm millions of anxious patients each year because of its safety record, rapid onset and quick reversal time.

Intravenous sedation

Intravenous sedation is a very precise form of sedation as the sedative medicine is delivered directly into the bloodstream. This allows your anaesthetist to control the depth of the sedation by making small adjustments to the dosage being delivered. Modern intravenous sedatives also have better analgesic and amnesic effects which is often helpful to anxious patients requiring oral surgery.

How does it feel to be sedated?

In addition to a feeling of deep relaxation, sedative medication may create a feeling that time passes very quickly or make a patient remember very little of their time in the dental office. Analgesic properties help reduce any sensation of pain or discomfort.

What should I expect on the day of the appointment?

You will need to arrange for a companion to accompany you to and fro the practice on the day of your sedation appointment. You should not eat or drink six hours prior to your appointment unless otherwise directed by your dentist.

Consider taking the remainder of the day off, stay hydrated and avoid operating heavy machinery or driving for the next 24 hours.

Are there any risks involved?

All medication, prescribed or available over the counter, carries potential risks. Unpleasant side effects can occur depending on the sedative used, dosage, type and duration of sedation. Patient’s reaction and tolerance of the different type of sedation techniques may also be quite different. For this reason the attending dentist or anaesthetist will ask a series of questions about your health and lifestyle. It is important to answer these questions as accurately as possible to ensure a safe outcome. Patients with a complex medical history may have their existing physicians co-opted into their care.