Anxious Patients

Conscious Sedation in the Dental Surgery

Many people fear the dentist and avoid going causing both dental and general health to suffer.

Fears of dental treatment can be overcome in many ways, including counselling, oral sedation before treatment, intravenous sedation or even a general anaesthetic.

Both you and your dentist decide together on the best option depending on the type of treatment required and level of anxiety.

Sedation can be administered by a dentist who has had additional post-graduate training. A general anaesthetic is given by an anaesthetist. You are always under the care of a team member while sedated or anaesthetised and are never left alone.

Your breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, heart rhythms, and the amount of oxygen in the blood are usually monitored and recorded for complete safety.

Anxious Patients
Anxious Patients

Verbal and oral sedation

Verbal sedation is when your dentist spends some time explaining the treatment to help calm your fears.

An oral sedative may be prescribed for you to take before treatment. This will greatly reduce some anxious feelings and make treatment more comfortable. Additional sedation may be given at the time of your dental treatment to supplement the oral sedation.

Nitrous oxide sedation

Nitrous oxide or “laughing gas” has been used for years to relax anxious patients.

A small “hood” is placed over the nose and a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide is inhaled. This will make you relaxed and sleepy with a feeling of well-being. When used on children, often no local anaesthetic is required.

Intravenous sedation

This is an efficient and effective way of providing anxiety relief and pain control during dental procedures. The sedative and often a pain killer are injected into a vein on the forearm or back of the hand. It is virtually painless. You will drift into a state of drowsiness. Your dentist may use nitrous oxide to make the sedation more effective and a local anaesthetic as required.

General anaesthetic

This may be recommended in certain cases. A general anaesthetic causes loss of consciousness during which you are monitored closely by an anaesthetist. You will be totally unaware of treatment and won’t feel any pain. Recovery normally takes longer and may be less pleasant than with intravenous sedation.

Safety of sedation and general anaesthesia

These are all low risk and safe. Sedation given in dental surgeries by qualified dentists has an excellent safety record.

If the patient is in good health, the risk of a serious reaction to a general anaesthetic is very small and to a sedative even less. The risks are greater in the elderly, the very young, and those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Treatment of children

General anaesthesia may be recommended for children who are extremely frightened, anxious, or uncooperative. It allows the dentist to work longer and complete more treatment on the child. This reduces the number of visits and is likely to lessen the child’s fear of going to the dentist. General anaesthesia is recommended for children who:

  • Have difficulty understanding what is going on because they are very young
  • Are physically or intellectually disabled
  • Are in a lot of pain
  • Need long or complicated treatments

They are most likely to be treated in a day-care facility rather than the dental surgery. Intravenous sedation may be a more appropriate technique for older children.

Treatment of the elderly

Elderly people are more likely to have medical problems and regularly take medications. Sedation is an excellent option but careful assessment of health status is essential.

After treatment

  • Rest for a few hours and give yourself the rest of the day to recover
  • A light meal may be consumed after treatment. It is a good idea to eat prior to taking your pain killers or antibiotic
  • Avoid alcohol for at least 24 hours
  • Do not take any medicines that have not been prescribed by your dentist or doctor