If you’re feeling nervous about your dental appointment, ask your dentist what types of sedation they offer. Sedation dentistry can help you to feel relaxed and take away pain and discomfort during your treatment, so you don’t have to miss out on important dental care.
Why is sedation used?
It’s common to have anxiety about visiting the dentist, especially if you don’t visit as often as recommended so your main experiences are of having corrective procedures. Around one in six Australian adults and one in ten children say they have dental fear, with five percent of the population having a more severe form of dental phobia that can impact on their life.
If you worry about visiting the dentist, it’s more likely that you’ll delay your appointments until symptoms of a possible oral health problem become too severe to ignore. By this time, the condition may be more difficult to treat.
Dental sedation can help anxious patients to overcome their fears and develop more positive associations with their dentist. It may also be recommended for patients who have a low pain threshold, sensitive teeth or a severe gag reflex, or if you’re having a large amount of dental treatment completed at once.
What treatments can you be sedated for?
Sedation dentistry doesn’t affect the outcomes of most treatments, so it can be used for many common dental procedures such as fillings and extractions, root canal therapy and placing a dental implant or crown.
Sedation may be recommended for some treatments even if you don’t have dental anxiety, like if you need to have a number of teeth extracted or filled on the same visit. However, being sedated doesn’t mean your dentist can perform treatments faster or combine treatments that are normally carried out across several appointments, as these may require time for your mouth to heal or infections to clear up.
What are the different sedation methods?
Depending on your situation, your dentist may recommend any of these common sedation options:
- Happy gas – Happy gas or laughing gas has been used in dentistry since early 1900s, and is breathed in with oxygen through a face mask. You’ll be conscious during your treatment and able to respond to your dentist’s instructions, but you should feel calm and even positive about the experience.
- Intravenous (IV) sedation – Sedatives are administered directly into the vein, so they enter the bloodstream more quickly. This is a deeper and faster level of sedation, and although you’ll still be conscious during the procedure, you may not be able to respond to instructions. IV sedation can only be performed by a qualified anaesthesiologist.
- Oral sedation – Your dentist will give you a tablet to swallow at least an hour before your appointment, which will help you to feel calm while staying awake during your treatment. Depending on the dose, oral sedation can range from mild to moderate.
- General anaesthesia – You will be fully asleep during your treatment if general anaesthetic is used. This can only be administered in a hospital by a qualified anaesthesiologist.
Will I feel pain if I’m sedated?
You won’t normally feel any pain during dental procedures. Local anaesthesia is normally used in combination with sedatives to numb pain responses in the part of your mouth being treated.
You may feel some pain or discomfort after the procedure when the anaesthetic wears off, and your dentist may prescribe pain relief medication during your recovery.
What’s the recovery period for dental sedation?
Your dentist will explain how each type of sedation is likely to affect your recovery period. Generally, recovery times are:
- Happy gas – almost no recovery time, you may drive yourself home after the procedure
- IV sedation –avoid driving and operating machinery for 24 hours
- Oral sedation – avoid driving for the next 24 hours
- General anaesthesia – avoid driving for 48 hours.
Talk to a dentist in Melbourne
Want to know more about sedation dentistry and how it could help you? Get in touch with our friendly team at All Day EveryDay Dental to find out what sedation methods we offer at our dental clinics in Brunswick and Kew.
Call us on (03) 9853 1811 or make an appointment online.
 Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health. Dental fear and anxiety: Information for Dental Practitioners [Online] March 2016 [Accessed September 2017] Available from: https://www.adelaide.edu.au/arcpoh/dperu/special/dfa/Dental_Fear_Professional.pdf