Estimates suggest that close to 75% of adults in North America experience some level of dental fear or anxiety. Within this group, 5-10% experience a level of anxiety consistent with dental phobia. Dental Sedation provides an option for these people to receive necessary treatment comfortably and without anxiety. Below I explore some super-important, “need to know” bits of information so you can navigate having dental treatment with sedation.
What is dental sedation?
Dental sedation is, by definition, a drug-induced alternate state of consciousness that enables dental treatment. More plainly, sedation involves using different substances or medical compounds to relax you for your treatment appointment. Patients more commonly request dental sedation for longer, more challenging appointments such as for root canal treatment or dental extractions.
The degree of relaxation can differ. In some cases (like with nitrous oxide or “laughing gas”), you remain conscious but experience extreme relaxation. In other cases, a moderate intravenous sedative can make you feel very “whoozy” such that you are awake but cannot really maintain a conversation. At the most extreme end of this spectrum is General Anesthesia, under which your are unconscious. Generally, as you get into stronger modes of sedation, your health risks go up.
Please visit our Dental Sedation & Anxiety Management page for a more detailed description of sedation options.
Pediatric Dentistry and Sedation
The #1 most common use for dental sedation is to enable treatment of children. There are 2 trends that have made this so. First, Family Dentists are referring children to Specialists for treatment at a greater rate now. Second, Specialists such as Pediatric Dentists are recommending sedation for treatment more commonly. Some children may have higher activity levels and require mild sedation for completion of treatment. Others may do just fine without sedation. Here are some very useful questions to ask the Dentist/Specialist if they recommend sedation for your little one:
- Is there a chance we can do treatment without sedation?
- What are all sedation options available to me?
- If General Anesthesia is recommended, ask if treatment can be attempted with a milder form of sedation.
- Can we do treatment in smaller chunks across multiple appointments?
Is sedation dentistry dangerous?
When taking medical compounds or drugs, risks always exist. You take small risks when you consume Tylenol, Advil and other medicines. With dental sedation options, the stronger the sedative the greater the risk. Greatest risks exist with General Anesthesia while Laughing Gas carries with it almost no risk. Some treatments and situations demand General Anesthetic and there may not be an alternative. However, we always want to make sure we can have treatment done with the mildest sedative possible (and if that’s no sedative then even better still!). So ask lots of questions if sedation is recommended for you or your little one.
Cost Considerations & Dental Insurance
If you are exploring sedation options for dental treatment, you can get a cost estimate from your Dentist. Additionally, you can ask your Dentist to submit a pre-determination to your insurance provider to find out if you have sedation coverage. Keep in mind that not all insurance plans cover sedation and so it is important to know about any out of pocket costs you may incur.
It is also important to keep in mind that sedation fees differ depending on who is providing treatment. Specifically, a General Dentist’s sedation fee will be lower than that of a Dental Specialist.
Thank you for reading.
By Dr. Kyle Hornby, Family Dentist in Kitchener
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a dental condition or treatment.