Dental Health Info Article

Sedation Dentists

Are you one of those dental patients who has a hard time getting through your dental appointments because of dental anxiety? Or does your fear of dentists keep you from visiting the dental office at all? A great sedation dentist can help put your fears at ease. Sedation dentists are trained to reduce or eliminate the dental fear and anxiety that keeps millions from getting the dental treatment they need.

What’s Your Vice?

Sedation dentists practice what's often called "sleep dentistry," which covers a broad range of anti-anxiety treatments. Depending on your needs, your dentist may recommend one of the following forms of dental sedation:

Anxiolysis -- Minimal sedation puts you in a relaxed state while you remain completely awake and able to communicate with your dentist. Anxiolysis comes in the form of oral sedation or inhaled sedation (nitrous oxide).

Conscious Sedation -- With moderate or conscious sedation, you will stay awake but feel tired or groggy. You will still be able to respond to your dentist's commands but may slur your words and will not be able to drive yourself home after the appointment. Conscious sedation also causes retrograde amnesia, so you won't remember the dental procedure. Examples of conscious sedation are oral sedation and IV sedation.

Deep Sedation -- Deep sedation renders you semi- or totally unconscious and you will not regain consciousness until the drug wears off or is reversed. General anesthesia is the only sedation technique that renders you completely unconscious.

Specialized Treatment

Sedation dentistry is not a dental specialty recognized by the American Dental Association. Any dentist who administers dental sedation is considered a sedation dentist. But that doesn't mean just anyone can provide you with the service -- a sedation dentist needs to be trained in the form of sedation they are administering. Many forms of conscious sedation require a certification awarded after successful completion of classroom and clinical coursework.

Sedation dentistry regulations vary from state to state -- many require a permit for dentists to administer conscious and deep sedation. Most states don't require permits for nitrous oxide, but minimal oral sedation may be regulated to prevent drug interactions. A few states require that dental team members assisting in sedation dentistry procedures receive certification as well.

Deep sedation and general anesthesia require certification from the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Only a limited number of dentists are qualified, and most of these dentists are oral and maxillofacial surgeons or dental anesthesiologists. Many general dental offices are not equipped to handle this type of dental sedation, but some dentists will hire dental anesthesiologists to assist them in a hospital setting.

Safety First

When administered correctly, dental sedation is relatively safe. Your sedation dentist will monitor your response to the sedation drugs during the procedure. Although complications are rare, your dentist should take every precaution to avoid any risks associated with sedation dentistry, including drug interactions and respiratory problems. You'll need to inform your sedation dentist of your medical history and any medications you're taking, as well as any drug or alcohol use.

The Dental Organization for Conscious Sedation, a continuing education course provider for sedation dentistry, highly recommends dentists keep these safety measures in the office in case of an emergency:

Pulse Oximeter -- Your dentist may use one of several types of monitoring devices to check your vital signs throughout the procedure. The pulse oximeter is a simple sensor placed on the tip of your finger to measure your heart rate and the level of oxygen in your blood.

Emergency Respirator -- A portable respirator may be necessary if the patient has difficulty breathing on his or her own.

Emergency Drugs -- Every dental office should have an emergency drug kit for sedation problems as well as any other medical emergencies.

Choosing a Sedation Dentist

Finding a sedation dentist to meet all of your dental needs is no light issue. Ask your dentist about his or her training and experience in administering dental sedation. Your sedation dentist should discuss how the sedation will affect you and provide guidelines for your recovery. If you need help finding a dentist, call us today.