Sleep dentistry, or sedation dentistry as it is also called among professionals, refers to the practice of putting a patient – you, for example – under sedation before the dental procedure is performed. You are not actually put to sleep because you will still be able to answer questions, be aware of your surroundings, and be able to feel albeit in a limited capacity, thanks to the state of deep relaxation you have been placed under.
Before undergoing any sleep dentistry treatment, you and your dentist will discuss many relevant matters including but not limited to:
Your medical history. You may have an underlying medical condition that precludes the use of certain anti-anxiety medications, painkillers, and numbing agents, among other drugs used in sleep dentistry. Your medical condition may increase the risks for side effects and complications during and after the sleep dentistry treatment or may fall under one of the contraindications of sleep dentistry. You should provide for complete information about the medications you have been taking or have taken so that the appropriate sedatives, among other drugs, can be chosen for your treatment.
Your planned treatment. Each sleep dentistry treatment will have different requirements in terms of the level of sedation, the duration of the procedure, and the level of difficulty, among other factors. Your dentist, for example, may choose mild sedation for a front tooth extraction but moderate sedation for wisdom tooth removal.
Your level of anxiety. You may ask for moderate sedation instead of mild sedation because of your high level of anxiety, a reasonable request especially when you have a fear of needles.
Sleep dentistry is designed for patients who want to undergo dental procedures without being subjected to the physical and psychological pain of the treatments. But it is important to discuss these matters with the most reliable practitioners of sleep dentistry – the dentists at Healthy Smiles.
The steps during a sleep dentistry treatment vary according to the level of sedation planned for each patient. Keep in mind that the drugs used will be administered in various ways – inhalation or intravenous are the two main methods – so the actual steps will also be different.
Mild sedation, also known as anxiolytics, is primarily intended to relieve anxiety, a common issue among young and old patients alike. In it, you will be fitted with a small nose-hood placed over your nose, which will then be the site of inhalation for the analgesia. You will inhale the nitrous oxide (i.e., laughing gas) via the nose-hood before and during the entire sleep dentistry procedure.
Nitrous oxide induces a feeling of overall well-being, even a state of deep relaxation that significantly lessens your anxiety. You will also feel tingling and numbness but there should be no discomfort after its administration. Your dentist will now proceed with the planned treatment when you have already been mildly sedated – truly, the main reason for the popularity of sleep dentistry.
Moderate sedation is characterised by a depressed level of consciousness. You can breathe on your own (i.e., no oxygen tank), retain your reflexes, and respond to your dentist’s verbal and physical stimulation. You will be able to answer questions but you will probably not remember both the questions and your answers when the sedative wears off – a case of partial or complete amnesia, a standard effect of the sedatives used in sleep dentistry.
In moderate sedation, the sedatives and painkillers – the latter may or may not be mixed with the former depending on your dentist’s professional discretion – can be administered in two ways. First, intravenous sedation involves the injection of the drugs via a vein, which means faster onset of the effects. Second, intramuscular sedation involves the injection of the drugs into the muscles either of the upper arm or thigh. In both cases, a numbing agent may be applied to the injection area.
Because of the use of sedatives in sleep dentistry, you must have someone drive you home after the procedure but more than that, it has allowed people who were previously fearful to come forward and take care of their dental health.