The History of Sedation Dentistry


For many people, heading to the dentist causes feelings of anxiety and fear. However, sedation dentistry provides these patients with a way they can relax when dental treatments are required instead of dealing with panic, anxiety and fear. Sedation dentistry is not a new concept, although it has evolved significantly over time. A look at the history behind sedation and sleep dentistry finds that this type of dentistry has a long, rich history. Here is a closer look at the history behind sedation dentistry, as well as a look at how sedation has evolved today.

Understanding the Differences Between Sedation Dentistry and Sleep Dentistry

Before looking at the history behind sedation dentistry, it is important to understand the differences between sedation dentistry and sleep dentistry. Unfortunately, patients often confuse them or think they are the same thing, yet they have some significant differences to consider.

Sleep dentistry is an approach that makes use of general anaesthesia, rendering the patient fully unconscious, so they are asleep during the dental procedure. Certain extensive dental procedures may require sleep dentistry treatment, but there are some risks to using general anaesthesia. This type of approach is rarely used just to deal with phobias, anxiety or fear, but it is reserved for extensive, invasive dental procedures, such as certain types of oral surgery.

On the other hand, sedation dentistry is a more common that is very popular today. It is quite safe and is an excellent choice for individuals that fear the dentist’s office or those who deal with anxiety when they head into the office for dental treatment. Patients are still conscious when sedation dentistry is used, yet they are fully relaxed and in a dream-like state. In most cases, patients never remember the procedure, even though they are not asleep during the treatment.

The Origins and History of Sedation Dentistry

Although sedation dentistry is not a new concept, it has only recently become a popular option around the world. The history of sedating dental patients for dental procedures goes all the way back to William T. G. Morton, a dentist that used ether on a patient before performing a procedure. This occurred in 1846 and Morton administered the ether before a procedure in front of an entire amphitheatre of students and physicians. This took place at Harvard University.

Before this presentation by Morton, another dentist, Horace Wells, tried to demonstrate that nitrous oxide could work as an anaesthetic agent. This took place in 1845, and unfortunately, the trial was unsuccessful and the audience was unimpressed by his attempts to use nitrous oxide. However, since that time, nitrous oxide has quickly become a popular form of anaesthesia used by dentists and it is often used still today. However, it was not until 1864 that the American Dental Association finally recognized Wells for his discovery. Since the gas is easy to use, very safe and quite inexpensive, it is an excellent choice. It also helps to raise patients’ pain threshold, which is another benefit to using this gas on dental patients.

Sedation Dentistry Today

Although the idea of sedation dentistry goes back more than 150 years, technology has provided today’s dentists with many options to use when sedation patients for dental treatments. IV sedatives, nitrous oxide and many oral sedatives are available. Each type of sedation works to ensure that patients are completely relaxed and comfortable. Today’s sedation techniques are also very safe, especially when qualified sedation dentists administer them.

Sedation dentistry has an interesting history and it has been used successfully for many years now. If you fear going to the dentist, you deal with anxiety or you need to have significant work done in a single treatment, talk to your dentist about your sedation options. Sedation may be the best option for you, ensuring that you have a comfortable, relaxing experience while you get the dental care that you require.


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