Sleep Dentistry Versus Sedation

What are the Differences between Sleep Dentistry and Sedation Dentistry? 

There is often confusion in prospective dental patients between the terms “sleep dentistry” and “sedation dentistry”.   This confusion is not helped by the fact that


 many people use them interchangeably, even though there is actually quite a difference between the two.  The correct definition of sleep dentistry is a procedure where the patient is under general anesthesia, and they are therefore completely unconscious.  This approach means that a certified anesthesiologist must be part of the dental team, and the unconscious state of the patient brings with it a raised potential for complications.  Because of this, sleep dentistry is rarely used for patients with dental anxiety or general fear of dental procedures.

On the other hand, sedation dentistry has a much lower risk of complications and has proven to be very safe.   Instead of rendering the patient unconscious, the dentist just uses nitrous oxide or a light oral sedative.  The patients typically find that they are completely relaxed in the dentist’s chair, and totally free of anxiety, even though they are still conscious.   In this lightly sedated state, time goes by very quickly for the patient, almost as though they were dreaming.   One of the biggest advantages of this technique is that patients can undergo several procedures during a single appointment, so the total number of dental visits is reduced.  Sometimes treatment that would require four or five appointments can be accomplished in a single visit.

Sedation dentistry has had a huge positive impact on people who have avoided going to the dentist because of fears and anxiety.  Not only does the procedure make the patient much less aware of their surroundings, but it also leaves them with little or no memory of the actual dental procedures.  The fact that the sedative is taken by mouth rather than injected with needles or IV tubes also helps the anxious patient during the appointment.

Patients trying sedation dentistry for the first time find that it is an excellent solution for dental anxiety. This safe and simple way to ease the mind of the anxious patient lets them breeze through even very long dental visits, and they remember little about it when they are done.   One caveat, however,  is that the patient must have someone drive them home, as the sedation will not wear off quickly enough to allow them to drive themselves.  Sedation dentistry has also proven to be a safe and effective alternative for patients who have a bad gag reflex or limited jaw opening, as well as those patients who have a hard time getting totally numb.

Often, younger children are found to be excellent candidates for the advantages of sedation dentistry.   This is especially important when the dentist wants to avoid giving them a negative view of dental appointments at such a young age.  It also makes it much easier to provide quality care than when the child is fully awake and possibly uncooperative.

In contrast to sleep dentistry, sedation Dentistry is the latest dental technique for those who are fearful, are facing complex but necessary procedures, or who simply are limited on the amount of time they have for dental appointments. Using this safe technique, patients can be relaxed for up to 8 hours while their dental care is completed with little or no memory of the completed procedures afterward.

Unfortunately, there are many people who can be described as “dental phobic”.  These people have typically put off dental care to the point it has negatively affected their dental health and their smile.  With sedation dentistry, there is no longer any reason for this situation to continue.  If you, or someone you know, have dental anxiety, you should investigate just how easy getting good dental care could be by calling the St Louis dentist office of Dr. Steven West.