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Choosing a Sedation or Sleep Dentist

Sedation from the Patient Perspective

There are many interpretations of what sedation really is. For some patients it can mean being sedated to the point where they are partially aware of what is going on but not particularly mindful of procedures or treatments that are being performed from one minute to the next.

Advanced Sedation Services
Getting Comfortable for Treatment
The medications for this type of sedation can be taken orally or through intravenous (IV) or intramuscular (IM) injection. For patients with mild anxiety or who want to enjoy a sense of comfortable relaxation, this type of medication support can be ideal.

Nitrous Oxide, commonly referred to as laughing gas, is a popular inhalant that is used to relax patients. Doctors providing oral or other forms of sedation medications will often use Nitrous as an added support for optimizing relaxation during treatment.

Well developed dental phobias or long histories of dental anxiety that is induced by real, remembered or anticipated events can be a little more difficult to manage or control... both for the patient and the dentist.

Odors, handpiece motor sounds, sitting in the dental chair, drilling sounds ... even the memory of such things can be a precipitating trigger that prevents a person from seeing his/her dentist. It is not uncommon for patients to avoid treatment for 10 years or more.... while their dental needs go untreated.

Hospital grade sedation services are offered by some doctors in their own offices. Typically, through years of experience, these dentists have essentially learned how to overcome almost any imaginable stimulus that causes a patient stress. The doctors and their staff oftentimes possess behavioral skills that play a supportive role in a patient's treatment.

Hospital Grade Equipment
Advanced Sedation Dentistry
Monitoring Equipment
Anesthesiologists are also used in certain types of surgeries and treatments that might be time consuming or complex .... or they are used as a supportive service for a patient with a strong phobic history.

In some practices, anesthesiologists can pre-arrange the anesthesia service in the dental office. Other practices may have established relationships with hospitals where surgeries are performed in a hospital environment.

Patients who don't become numb easily with common topical anesthetics can be good candidates for different types of sedation. What works best is usually determined by the patient and dentist.

Sedation from the Dentist Perspective

Some doctors equate sedation dentistry with sleep dentistry. In terms of marketing and what appears on a dental website can sometimes be confusing. There are dental practices that provide a good range of medication choices to make dentistry comfortable.... but don't market or advertise it as sedation, while some offices provide nitrous oxide as a "sedation service."

How Do I Choose?

Dental practices that provide a full array of sedation services will be those that, nearly by default, perform numerous surgical procedures on a nearly daily basis (e.g., Oral Surgeons, Periodontists, Reconstructive Implant Dentists).

Patients who know they will require the services of an anesthesiologist and/or hospital support services can investigate services through an Oral Surgery Group.. as a starting point. For children, many Pediatric Dentists can pre-arrange anesthesiology services in office or in a hospital setting. For some communities. contacting hospitals may be helpful in determining which dental practices use their services.

Where are They?

For general or mild sedation requirements, where a patient seeks comfort and support for managing mild anxieties, many general dentists may have routine access to the most popular sedation medications, typically Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas).

Inquire about Practice Focus

Within the general dentistry group, there is a stronger likelihood that a practice that performs implant surgeries, bone grafting, root canals, full arch extractions, etc., will provide needed sedation as compared to general practice that does not.

Reconstructive dentists (including periodontist, oral surgeon, endodontist) who routinely provide the above named procedures are always focused on patient comfort... first and foremost. It follows then they will have more resources for patients to choose from that assures the comfort they want during and after treatment. Some doctors even have special technologies available (SyraJet, The Wand).

Sedation Websites

Dental practices that appear to promote sedation dentistry as a major or primary service can be expected to have different ranges of products, services and technologies that can make dental treatments very very comfortable for practically anyone... regardless of need or severity of one's aversion to seeking needed dental treatments. Many "sedation practices" often have equipment and resources that rival the technologies hospitals have.

Special Organizations

Many doctors belong to professional organizations that support and promote different types of sedation services:
  • Dental Organization for Conscious Sedation (DOCS)
  • American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM)
  • American Society of Dentist Anesthesiologists (ASDA)
  • American Dental Society of Anesthesia (ADSA)
Patients can contact these organizations directly to find a dentist in their area that can provide the services they want the most.

Finding the Perfect Choice

Patients who have significant dental phobias, anxieties, aversion responses and who may even become "frozen with fear" (unfortunately usually due to bad experiences) probably have more difficulty in finding their best choice compared to a patient who only seeks mild relaxation.

Understandably, a patient with a strong need for the "right sedation" can suffer an increase in the phobic response when a poor choice is made. Patients must practice due diligence and ask as many questions as necessary to acquire the confidence they need.

Sedation dentists who have full access to anything and everything a patient could possibly need for assuring absolute comfort will ALWAYS welcome questions and typically provide answers that are immediate.

Dentists who practices don't have access to a wide array of services may answer certain questions either too generally or even dismiss them as not being important. Every question is important.

The final selection process of choosing the right dentist should be based on the technologies and choices available, the frequency of sedation services being provided daily, case history examples cited by the dentist that demonstrates successful management of an assortment of sedation supported dentistry (filling a cavity versus 4 hour multiple molar extractions) and the overall receptiveness (and warmth?) of the doctor.... and even the staff.. in some cases (sedation practices have trained staff).

Last... and most certainly not least... is the "gut feeling" one has. If a patient feels that any important criteria weren't satisfactorily met.... they should continue their search. Those who have a sedation failure (for whatever reason) during treatment can risk increasing their aversion to getting treatment.

How to Evaluate a Dentist >>

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