What is “Sleep Dentistry”
People who are very nervous about attending dental appointments will often ask whether there is a way for them ‘to be asleep’ during their appointment. Very often these folk are really pleased to know that there is an option available, sometimes known as ‘Sleep Dentistry’.
The first thing to know about ‘Sleep Dentistry’ is that it really is a bit of a misnomer- the term doesn’t precisely describe what really happens during a “Sleep Dentistry” appointment. However, for most patients who experience a “Sleep Dentistry” appointment, this term makes perfect sense
Confused already? Let me see if I can make this all clearer.
When dentists offer a “Sleep Dentistry” appointment, they are usually talking about dental treatment that is performed whilst the patient is either heavily sedated via intravenous sedation (a procedure that can be done in registered dental practices) or even fully anaesthetized via a general anaesthetic (most often in hospital). In neither situation is the patient truly ‘asleep’.
When someone is given intravenous sedation for their dental appointment, they become deeply relaxed and very drowsy, but they remain conscious. They can respond to their dentist’s instructions during the appointment- for example, if they are asked to open their mouth a little wider, they will generally comply.
After the appointment the patient will remain under the dentist’s supervision for a recovery period, after which they can be accompanied home by an adult family member or friend, who will then remain with them until the effects of the sedative medications wear off.
So it may have you wondering how a conscious patient could possibly imagine that they were asleep during their intravenous sedation dental appointment?
One of the effects that most people experience from the intravenous sedation drugs is amnesia– a loss of memory that usually covers the period of the dental appointment and some of the recovery period, and sometimes even the time before they arrived at the dental practice! Many people translate this memory loss as time they must have spent ‘asleep’- hence the term “Sleep Dentistry” seems to fit very nicely.
When people have “Sleep Dentistry” in a hospital, their dental treatment is generally performed while they are under a full general anaesthetic. These patients are completely unconscious, and require a full medical team to be present to monitor their vital signs. This is generally a day-stay procedure, with patients spending some of their recovery time in hospital.
Once again, many of these patients will often report to others ‘I had my teeth fixed while I was asleep’: although some will also use the term ‘knocked out’, which is probably closer to the mark since they were truly unconscious during the appointment.
When considering “Sleep Dentistry” it is important to be aware of the following:
- There are risks involved with any type of sedation. Your dentist or anaesthetist will discuss these with you before making a treatment appointment.
- Having “Sleep Dentistry” will not cure your dental anxiety- however, patients often feel more relaxed about their ongoing dental care.