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Dental Sedation

Are you someone who suffers from dental anxiety? Does the mere mention of the dentist fill you with fear? If you are one of many people in the world who struggle to visit their dentist because of anxiety, sedation dentistry could be your answer.

What is dental sedation?
We answer some common questions.

Dr. Hannah Pepper (GDC no: 76037) is one of the most highly qualified dentists in the South West, with many years of experience in hospital surgery and in private practice. She runs Rock House Dental Practice where she carries out dental treatment with sedation. She is a member of the Dental Sedation Teaching Group and SAAD, and has mentored dentists in training for sedation.
What is sedation and how can it help me?

Dental sedation induces a state of calmness and relaxation, through the use of medication. It has been shown that in the UK over half the population feel anxious about visiting the dentist. This can stop them having the treatment they need to have a healthy and pain-free mouth. Sedation can help everyone access the  full range of dental care they need.


What sedation is used in dentistry? 

Several types of sedation can be used, depending on the complexity of the procedure, the patient’s anxiety level and their overall health. Here's a breakdown of the most common options:

  1. Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas) is given via a nose mask that helps you breathe in the gas and air mixture. It is an effective but mild sedative and is particularly useful for children. It wears off very quickly.

  2. Oral Sedation uses tablets which have to be taken an hour or so before the dental treatment. It provides a moderate level of sedation. It is difficult to adjust during the treatment, as it takes time for it to work and it can also take time for it to wear off. You will need someone else to take you home.

  3. Intravenous or IV Sedation uses a cannula (a thin plastic tube) which is placed into a vein during the dental treatment. It provides the deepest level of sedation and you will need someone to take you home and look after you: it can take up to 24 hours for a full recovery.


Is dental sedation safe? 

Dental sedation is generally considered safe when administered by a qualified dentist and with proper monitoring.

Here are some additional tips for maximising safety with dental sedation:

  • Choose a qualified dentist with experience in administering your chosen sedation method.

  • Be honest about your medical history and any medications you're taking.

  • Follow your dentist's instructions before, during, and after the procedure.

If you have concerns about the safety of dental sedation, discuss them openly with your dentist. They can address your specific questions and help you determine if sedation is the right choice for you.


Can you ask the dentist to put you to sleep? 

General anaesthesia is used in hospital to put you to sleep and you are usually completely unaware of your operation. Dental sedation is not the same: it causes a state of relaxation and calmness, not full unconsciousness. The level of sedation is dependent on the type of sedation used. 

If gas and air is used, you'll be awake and aware of your surroundings, but feel relaxed and calm. You might feel a little lightheaded or tingly.

If oral sedation is used, you might be drowsy and less aware of your surroundings. You might not remember all the procedure, but you could still respond to questions or instructions.

If intravenous sedation is used, you might be drowsy and have little to no memory of the procedure. However, you won't be completely asleep. This is important as your dentist can monitor your comfort and safety.


Do you feel pain with dental sedation?

Dental treatment should never be painful, with or without sedation. You typically won't feel pain during a dental procedure with sedation because local anaesthesia is used to numb the area being treated.


Is dental sedation expensive?

Dental sedation adds to the cost of dental treatment. Practices can usually offer finance at 0% interest to help spread the cost of sedation. You should discuss options with your dentist.

Can my dentist use sedation? 

In order to provide dental sedation, it is necessary for dentists to have extra training. Specialist equipment is needed which most dentists do not ordinarily have. This means that not every dentist is able to offer dental sedation and most patients are referred for treatment to dentists with a specialist interest in dental sedation. 


What’s the message to take away from this?

Sedation is a safe and effective way to manage anxiety and discomfort during dental procedures, helping patients feel more relaxed and comfortable. If you think sedation might help you get the dental treatment you need, talk to your dentist about the options that might be suitable for you. 

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