Sedation Dentistry Takes Some of the Fear Out of Dental Work
A trip to the dentist usually includes some anticipation of discomfort, especially if a tooth needs to be extracted or filled. The thought of having a needle poked into various areas of your gum or the roof of your mouth is quite unpleasant. Considering the fact that an injection to numb the area needing attention is better than feeling nerve pain during drilling or extraction, the needle is the lesser of two evils even though the idea is still quite objectionable. This is where sedation dentistry shines bright.
Although the thought of anticipated pain while at the dentist is not quite a myth, modern dental procedures do not involve the same level of pain patients experienced in years past. There are even some dentists who advertise that they specialize in treating “cowards”, and they offer sedation dentistry to help reduce the anxiety.
Sedation dentistry that is achieved through various levels of medication is now offered by many dental practices. Sometimes the sedation is identified as “sleep dentistry”, but the patient is actually awake and not really asleep. General anesthesia is only used for very involved procedures such as removing impacted wisdom teeth. The three levels of sedation used by a practice include the following:
1). Minimal sedation allows the patient to be fully awake, but induces a state of relaxation to help them through the procedure. This can be helpful for patients who are so anxious that simply having their teeth cleaned is difficult. Minimal sedation is not typically used for procedures that will be painful or difficult.
Minimal sedation can be achieved either through oral medication or by having the patient inhale nitrous oxide that is mixed with oxygen and administered with a mask placed over the nose. The dentist is able to control how much “laughing gas” the patient is getting, and the effects wear off rather quickly after the procedure is over. The patient is often able to drive home safely with minimal sedation.
2). Moderate sedation (previously called conscious sedation) induces a very relaxed state where the patient may slur their words when speaking. They probably will not remember many details of the procedure and will be totally relaxed. Moderate sedation can be achieved with oral medication taken about an hour before the sedation dentistry procedure begins. Sometimes an IV drug is used to produce moderate sedation without the waiting period. Many people feel so relaxed they fall asleep. but a gentle shake is all that is needed to wake them.
A faster method of achieving moderate sedation is by administering the sedative drug though an IV in a vein. The sedation dentistry professional is able to control the level of sedation with this method, and the drug will take effect very fast.
3). Deep sedation – in this state the patient is barely conscious, but they can be awakened if necessary. This type of sedation method is most often used for procedures that would be quite uncomfortable if the patient were fully awake such as surgery or maxillofacial work.
Sedation Dentistry Makes A Difference
No matter which level of sedation is used, the patient will also receive a local anesthetic to numb and eliminate pain at the site of the procedure. Although most dental practices can administer minimal and moderate sedation dentistry drugs, maximum sedation is limited to sedation dentists who are trained in the use of these drugs. Some progressive practices will call in a dental anesthesiologist if one of their patients require maximum sedation.
Any patient that is considering sedation for any procedure should be given a medical evaluation ahead of time. Certain patients who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea or are obese could be more at risk of having complications than people who do not have these health issues.
The cost of sedation dentistry procedures is not generally covered by insurance companies. They consider this option to be a luxury, so patients can expect to be billed from $150 to $200 for mild sedation, and the cost goes up considerably as the level of sedation increases. The cost can be as high as $500 for the highest level of sedation. If general anesthesia is required for a procedure, the cost may be covered if it is deemed medically necessary for the procedure to be completed.