Dental sedation – everything you need to know

little girl at dentist

The vast majority of dental procedures can be completed in one session using a local anaesthetic, but for some more complex procedures, Intravenous Sedation is a more comfortable way to undertake long dental appointments.

What is Intravenous Sedation?

Intravenous (IV) Sedation is the use of pharmacological drugs administered intravenously to calm and relax a patient, prior to and during a dental appointment. These range of drugs are called sedatives, which suppress the central nervous system, allowing the patient to be calmer, more relaxed and usually unaware of the procedure taking place.

IV sedation is different to the general anaesthetic commonly used in an operation in a hospital. Dental sedation is also known as “twilight sedation”, and renders the patient in a state between awake and asleep. Patients are still semi-conscious and are able to respond to commands such as ‘take a deep breath’ or ‘open wider’  however are so relaxed they are not concerned with what is going on around them at the time and usually have no recollection of the procedure afterwards.

What procedures is dental sedation used for?

While it’s true that dental sedation is used for the more complex procedures, in reality, no procedure is too small for this process. Many people have a genuine fear of the dentist, and can’t relax, even for a check-up. Dental sedation can help with these extreme cases. Here at Sydney Dental Aesthetics and Implants, we have carried out dental sedation for a simple hygiene appointment.  However, the most common procedures performed under dental sedation are major treatments, such as wisdom tooth extraction, root canal therapy and dental implants.

fear of the dentist

Preparing for Dental Sedation

Before your appointment, it is essential you fast for at least 6 hours, from both food and liquids.  Usual medications may be taken with a small amount of water, however this should be discussed with us beforehand.

Monitors are set up to assess blood pressure, oxygen saturation, pulse rate, and an ECG is placed to monitor the heart both before and during the dental procedure. Once fitness for IV sedation has been established, an intravenous line is set-up. Once the sedative is administered, instant relaxation is felt. Local anaesthetic is only administered once sedation is underway, so there is no awareness of any needles or the procedure.

What to expect after Dental Sedation

After the procedure there is an established recovery time, which is anywhere between 15 – 45 minutes, depending on the patient. During this time there is constant monitoring of the patient’s vital signs and the patient may still feel relaxed and ‘sleepy’.

Safety is our highest priority at Sydney Dental Aesthetics and Implants, so only when the dental sedationist, Dr Melissa Licenblat, feels the patient is alert and steady enough to walk on their own will they be discharged. Discharge is only allowed if a responsible adult is present to escort the patient home, and travel is only allowed in a private vehicle, so no public transport or taxis. Over the next 24 hours, the patient must not use heavy machinery or drive.

General anaesthetics

Twilight sedation doesn’t render you unconscious, it’s simply a way for you to relax when facing a procedure. For some treatments though, a general anaesthetic may be needed, which renders you completely unconscious.

If it is necessary for a general anaesthetic to be used, it will be administered and managed by a highly qualified and experienced Anaesthetist, just as would occur in a hospital.

All our Anaesthetists are highly trained medical specialists. Medical school and several years of experience in major hospitals is only the beginning of the certification process for an Anaesthetist. Our on-site Anaesthetists will have spent an additional 5 to 6 years undergoing specialist training in anaesthesia and pain management. On the day of your procedure, the Anaesthetist will put you into a state of carefully controlled unconsciousness, with the level of anaesthesia calculated and constantly adjusted.

girl smiling in dentist chair

Risks of sedation and anaesthesia

With the stringent qualification criteria, education and experienced requirements and post-graduate training, there is no safer place in the world to be anaesthetised than here in Australia. Nevertheless, some people are at increased risk for complications, particularly because of existing health problems.

Anyone with conditions such as heart and respiratory disease, diabetics, obesity and other pre-existing illness, have a higher risk factor than others.

Anaesthesia is still a complicated medical procedure, and common side effects can include bruising or pain at the side of injections, a sore throat, and post-operative nausea or vomiting. These are generally only for a short time.

Why choose SDAI for sedation

Patient safety, comfort and satisfaction is our highest priority here at SDAI.

Our highly trained Anaesthetists have years of experience in dental sedation, and everything from your medical history to how you get home after your treatment, is planned to the finest detail.

If you feel uncomfortable visiting the dentist and would like to know more about how to make your experience more relaxed, please contact us today.

We will be happy to answer any questions you may have about dental sedation or general anaesthetics.