In the past, dental procedures were associated with great pain and discomfort. The fear of the dentist was so much that many people chose to endure days of toothaches rather than visit a dentist to get the problem looked at. Fortunately, with the introduction of sleep dentistry, even the most invasive dental procedures can now be gentle and painless. But despite this, many people still fear visiting the dentist because they don’t understand the process. This article discusses sleep dentistry in detail to help give you a greater understanding.

What is Sleep Dentistry?

Also referred to as sedation dentistry, sleep dentistry is a form of dentistry where sedatives are administered to the patient before the dental procedure begins. Sedatives are a form of drug used to relax the patient and render them insensitive to pain. There are several levels of sedation used in sedation dentistry. The dentist will decide the most appropriate level of sedation depending on the nature of the dental procedure to be performed.

The levels of sedation include:

  • Minimal sedation – The patient is awake but relaxed.
  • Conscious sedation / moderate sedation – The patient is less aware of their surroundings and will feel sleepy. They might not remember what happened during the dental procedure.
  • Deep sedation – The patient is on the edge of consciousness but can be awakened easily.
  • General anaesthesia – The patient is completely unconscious.

The Types of Sedation Dentistry

There are several types of sedatives in regards to how they’re administered. The main types include:

  • Inhaled sedation – With this type of sedation, a gas mask is placed over the patient’s nose. The patient is then made to inhale a mixture of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and oxygen. The gas mixture makes the patient relax, and the sleep dentist controls the amount of sedation the patient receives. The effect of nitrous oxide often fades off quickly, meaning it only takes a short time for the patient to feel normal again after the operation.
  • Oral sedation – Oral sedation can result in a minimal or moderate level of sedation depending on the dosage given. The patient swallows a sedative pill about one hour before the dental procedure. For moderate sedation, a larger dosage is given.
  • Intravenous sedation – Intravenous sedatives are also known as IV sedatives. With this method, sedatives are injected directly into the veins. The effects are therefore felt more rapidly than with oral and inhaled sedation. The sleep dentist continually injects sedatives into the veins until the desired level of sedation is achieved.

Regardless of the type of sedation used, a numbing agent is still applied to the mouth in order to prevent pain caused by the dental procedure.

Is Sedation Dentistry Safe?

Sedation dentistry is completely safe when performed by an experienced dentist. However, people with conditions such as obesity and obstructive sleep apnoea can develop complications from the anaesthesia. Such people should consult with their GP before undergoing sleep dentistry. A good dentist will check the patient’s medical history before deciding which sedative to use.

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