A fear of dentists is one of the most common phobias out there: according to some statistics, high dental fear affects one in seven Australians.
In some cases, the fear is so deep that some patients might neglect dental check-ups entirely, suffering from conditions like toothaches in silence!
But imagine if we told you there was a solution to actually help you relax while you’re in the dentist’s chair?
It’s called sleep dentistry.
Don’t let the name mislead you – sleep dentistry does not put you to sleep. Rather, patients remain conscious throughout treatment, only at a higher level of drowsiness and relaxation. Sometimes, sleep dentistry is referred to as sedation dentistry.
Whether you need surgery or a simple teeth whitening procedure, a sleep dentist can help you overcome your dental phobia!
What makes sleep dentistry different from anaesthesia?
Unlike anaesthesia, sleep dentistry gives a dosage that’s just potent enough to relax patients, but also weak enough so that patients can respond to their dentist’s questions.
Simply put, sleep dentistry strikes a middle ground between fully alert and completely unconscious.
For example, local anaesthetic only removes feeling from a specific part of your mouth, leaving you fully awake and alert. For patients suffering from dental anxiety, that simply might be too much to handle.
General anaesthetic on the other hand knocks patients out cold. While they’ll have no recollection of the procedure, they won’t be able to respond or give feedback to their dentist either.
Sleep dentistry helps patients relax by inducing a state of drowsiness – in many cases, patients may not even remember the procedure afterwards.
Additionally, the knowledge that they’re not going to feel or remember anything can be a major aide to helping patients overcome their dental fears.
Patients aren’t the only ones that stand to benefit – it assists your dentist too! By leaving you in a partially-conscious state, your dentist can receive feedback and ask questions.
Who can a sleep dentist help?
Simply put, anybody who suffers from dental anxiety can benefit from sleep dentistry to help ease their fear.
A sleep dentist can offer service for all sorts of treatments, from routine to emergency treatments.
For example, children can feel particularly on-edge when at the dentist. When dealing with kids, we whip out the laughing gas – not only does it help them relax, but it’s extremely safe.
Not to mention, it’s a guaranteed hit with the little ones!
In addition, sleep dentistry can also help patients who avoid going to the dentist due to physical discomfort.
Some patients have a lower pain threshold or particularly sensitive teeth. In these cases, sleep dentistry can help patients get through their visits with minimal or no pain.
How does sleep dentistry work?
There are three different levels of sedation:
- Minimal sedation: you’re awake and mostly alert, but in a more relaxed state
- Moderate sedation: you might start slurring your words at this point, and it’s likely you won’t remember much of your procedure once it’s over
- Deep sedation: you’re able to respond, but barely – you’re narrowly hanging on to consciousness
In most cases, sedation is applied through inhaling. Dentists such as Dental Care Group use nitrous oxide – otherwise known as “laughing gas” – provided through a face mask. Laughing gas helps you relax, making it perfect for situations where minimal sedation is required.
Furthermore, it wears off relatively quickly, meaning it’s the least likely to result in ongoing drowsiness.
For deeper sedation however, your dentist will have to resort to other methods.
In some cases, sedation can be delivered through a pill taken approximately an hour before the procedure takes place.
This method is usually used for moderate sedation, and sometimes can lead to patients nodding off, though a gentle shake is normally enough to wake them up.
And for deep sedation, sedative may be applied through an injection. This typically works much faster – however, it’s important to know that not all dentists are qualified to do this (we are).
On a related note, it’s also important to remember that not all procedures can be treated with sleep dentistry. Be sure to talk to your dentist before asking for sleep dentistry.
Are there any side effects of sleep dentistry?
In most cases, many people will not experience any side effects. However, there are some exceptions.
Sedative takes a while to wear off – it’s not uncommon to continue experiencing drowsiness for a couple hours afterwards. We advise against driving afterwards, even with minimal sedation.
It’s important you have a trusted friend or family member drive you to and from your dentist in these cases.
Another common side effect after sedation wears off is nausea. We advise drinking plenty of water after your treatment.
If you’re prone to nausea, it might also be a good idea to avoid eating in the hours immediately before your appointment.
If you’re not sure what to do before and after your sleep dentistry treatment, simply chat to your dentist!
Is sleep dentistry safe?
No doubt, this is the burning question.
Fortunately, in the vast majority of cases, sleep dentistry is completely safe when delivered by a qualified and experienced dental professional.
However, there are a handful of situations where sedation might not be appropriate. Obesity, certain medications and obstructive sleep apnoea are three variables that can potentially cause complications, so be sure to get yourself cleared by your dentist first.
And while you’re talking with your dentist, you can also ask them about their experience with sedatives!
You can rest easy when you entrust your oral health to Dental Care Group!
As a leading Armadale dentist, Dental Care Group’s cutting-edge clinic offers safe and modern dental treatments for all members of the family.
We’re committed to creating a friendly, welcoming, and warm environment for all of our patients, and we have a range of tools to make that possible.
Those tools include sleep dentistry, administered by a trained team of professionals with plenty of experience.
If the thought of seeing your dentist makes you shiver, there’s only one number to call – ours! We’ll do our utmost to make your stay with us pain-free and more importantly, pleasant.