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Anxious about dental procedures? More anxious about how sedation will work (or not) for you?

The most minimally invasive techniques are inhalation sedation and oral sedation.

Inhaled (nitrus oxide plus oxygen) – also known as “laughing gas” act as a mild relaxant with only a  short effect.

Oral sedation involves pills which cause drowsiness, and depending on dosage, may allow the patient to fall asleep during the procedure and awaken over time or by a gentle shake.

In IV (sometimes referred to as “twilight”) sedation the sedative drug is administered through a vein and must be continually monitored and adjusted. There are IV sedation courses offered to dentists who prefer to administer IV sedation to their patients.

General anaesthesia renders a patient totally unconscious and should only be administered in a hospital setting and carries the highest risk. As such, the patient’s vital signs has to be monitored carefully and reversal medications must be on hand. Only specialist doctors with appropriate anaesthesia training and certification can administer this form of sedation.

So how safe are sedation techniques in dentistry?

There is always a risk in getting anesthesia. It is usually safe, though, when given by experienced doctors. Our dentists never perform IV sedation, as we employ a fully qualified anaesthesiologist who will be 100 per cent monitoring the level of sedation and monitoring vital signs. More importantly, an anaesthesiologist is trained and experienced in revival techniques. (The time you really need an anaesthesiologist is not when they are putting you to sleep, but rather, when they are waking you up!). Having an anaesthesiologist monitoring the patient means our dentists are able to focus and be completely absorbed in their dental work – it is what they do best.

However, your dentist must determine whether you are an appropriate candidate for sedation and ask about your general health as well as any medications you’re currently taking. Obesity, sleep apnoea, history of stroke and other conditions may increase the risk of complications in certain sedation options.

There is a recent story on a patient who died under IV sedation administered by her dentist while he was trying to perform complex dentistry. He had failed to monitor her oxygen levels, no wonder, as he was busy pulling out 20 teeth. Article on Rashmi Patel here.