If you suffer from dental anxiety, you’re not alone. Reports show that 40 percent of Canadians worry about the potential pain and discomfort that they may encounter during regular hygiene appointments or more complex dental work (i.e. periodontics, extractions, etc.) While sedation dentistry can ease your mind and help you feel more relaxed during procedures, is it always right for you?

Below we’ve provided some information on sedation and sleep dentistry.

What is sedation dentistry?

Sedation dentistry administers medication to help patients relax and ease the pain during or after dental procedures. Although it’s commonly interchanged with sleep dentistry; the difference between the two is that sleep dentistry uses general anesthetics which makes you unconscious while, sedatives relax you, but won’t totally knock you out.

Common types of sedation/sleep dentistry:

  • Nitrous oxide: Also known as ‘laughing gas’ this helps relax you during your procedure. It wears off fairly quickly, so you may be able to drive home after and function within a reasonable time frame.
  • Oral sedatives: Oral sedatives (e.g. such as diazepam or valium), also helps relax you during dental procedures. You typically take them an hour or so before your appointment as they take longer to break down than gas. With oral sedatives, you’re fully awake but less anxious, and you might feel a little sleepy and/or incoherent.
  • Intravenous sedatives: Intravenous/IV sedatives (needles that are inserted into veins) can put you in varying stages of consciousness and will put you into a deep or twilight sleep (one where you’re less aware of your surrounding and generally incoherent).

Who is the most appropriate candidate for sedation dentistry?

Sedation is most appropriate for people with an overwhelming fear or anxiety that prevents them from going to the dentist. It can generally help patients get through many types of dental work (i.e. root canals, extractions, dental implants/dentures, etc), but is not typically offered for regular dental cleanings, x-rays, and other routine care.

Other patients who may need sedation dentistry include:

  • Patients who suffer from dental phobia (fear of the dentist or dental procedures)
  • Patients who have had negative experiences with past dentists
  • Those who have a strong gag reflex
  • Those who are resistant to local anesthetics
  • Those who are having extensive/complex work done

Is sedation dentistry safe?

Yes, but keep in mind that there are only a small percentage of dentists, oral, maxillofacial surgeons and dentist anesthesiologists who have completed the accreditations in sleep sedation and general anesthesia.

Here’s a checklist of what needs to be done if you’re a candidate for sedation dentistry:

  • Prior to your procedure, your dentist should go over your medical history to determine whether you are an appropriate candidate for sedation and ask about any medications you’re currently taking. They’ll also provide you with information if there any risks associated with the anesthetic and let you know all the information you need before starting your procedure.
  • Ensure your dentist/anesthesiologist has the proper amount of training needed to perform these techniques from guidelines stipulated from the Royal College of Dental Surgeons in Ontario.
  • Ask relevant questions, such as: what sedative is appropriate for your age, general questions associated with risks (if you have any health issues).

Our goal is for you to be relaxed and comfortable so you can enjoy a pleasant experience at our clinics. To determine if you’re a candidate for sedation dentistry or experience any anxiety about dental procedures, please reach out to our dental professionals.