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What is ‘Sleep Dentistry’?

For some people a visit to the dentist is as easy and commonplace as going to the hairdresser, or for your annual skin cancer check-up. However, there are those who find the dental experience one that fills them with so much anxiety and dread they would just prefer to suffer through agony rather than visit the dentist for a check-up.

Sedation dentistry or ‘sleep 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.

Who might benefit from sedation dentistry?

Almost any patient who needs dental treatment for health or cosmetic reasons but has anxiety or fear about the procedure is likely to benefit from conscious sedation.  Other patients may benefit because they:

  • Have high anxiety about dental visits
  • Have suffered traumatic dental experiences in the past
  • Are receiving invasive procedures such as multiple extractions or dentistry in multiple sites
  • Have trouble achieving numbness
  • Have a severe or strong gag reflex or worries about gagging during impressions for crown and bridgework
  • Are afraid of needles in the mouth
  • Dislike the noises or smells often associated with dental care.

What are the methods of sedation dentistry? 

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.

Why would I choose sedation dentistry over a general anaesthetic?

  • Safety: As patients are technically awake, they are still very much in control of their own protective reflexes such as coughing and gagging.
  • Maintain communication: Although you are technically awake, albeit unlikely to remember the procedure, you can still inform your dentist of any concerns and we can offer reassurances and alter your care accordingly.
  • Reduced cost.
  • Quicker recovery and discharge home.

What is involved in sleep dentistry?

Step 1: Contact our Core Dental team to make a consultative appointment.

Step 2: Meet with the dental team and run through your medical history to make sure you are an acceptable candidate for the use of deep sedation techniques.

Step 3: Choose your preferred method of sedation. If you are particularly scared of needles, so the thought of an IV is just as scary as the procedure itself, we can talk about dosing you up with happy gas before that begins to optimise your relaxation.

Step 4: Lock in your appointment, all safe with the knowledge that you are going to be out like a light in a safe and calm environment!

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