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It is perfectly normal to feel a twinge of anxiety when you see the dentist, even if you care for your teeth and attend regular checkups and hygiene appointments. However, for some people, these feelings are unbearable and extend well beyond mild anxiety. It is not unusual to find that people will avoid dental visits entirely until they are in such severe pain and discomfort that they have no other choice but to make that appointment. Dental fear affects an estimated one in six Australian adults and approximately one in ten children. Dental phobia, where the fear of visiting the dentist has a significant impact on a person’s life affects about 5% of the population here in Australia.
The problem with delaying dental visits is that any treatment required is likely to be more invasive and expensive and will most likely take longer to complete. It is a scenario that can reinforce any existing phobias, as dental visits become even more firmly associated with discomfort or pain. Dentists can frequently provide mild sedatives in the form of nitrous oxide (happy gas) or oral sedation given in the form of a pill, but this may not be sufficient for anyone with deep-seated fears and phobias, and who wants the visit to be over as quickly as possible. If this strikes a chord, you might be interested to learn more about sleep dentistry.
Sleep dentistry is also sometimes called sedation dentistry and offers a pain-free and more comfortable solution, and especially for someone who might not have seen a dentist for a while and who could need more extensive treatment to restore oral health. With sleep dentistry, you can restore your smile and your dental health, more easily than you ever imagined. Sleep dentistry can be used to help people who only need a simple hygiene appointment, or who require lengthy and complex treatments like dental implants or full mouth reconstruction.
Our dentists can use sleep dentistry to restore dental health to people who may have felt unable to visit the dentist for years. We have seen first-hand the difference this can make to people’s quality of life as their smile is restored, along with the ability to eat comfortably. Also, when you can eat properly, it is far easier to eat nutritious foods that might have been of the menu for years. When you can eat more healthily, it helps your body to fight infection and disease more efficiently, protecting your overall health.
You might want to consider sleep dentistry if you have an especially strong gag reflex and which makes it uncomfortable to receive dental care. The sedatives will relax the muscles that create the gag response, making the entire visit much more comfortable. Sleep dentistry is also very helpful for people with special needs and who might feel especially anxious when they are in an unfamiliar environment. It can help children who may feel especially anxious or nervous and who are already in discomfort or pain.
Sleep dentistry solutions include intravenous (IV) dentistry and general anaesthesia.
Intravenous dentistry is also sometimes known as conscious sedation as you may not fall asleep fully, but you will feel so relaxed that you are less aware of what is happening during the procedure. The sedative is given intravenously, usually through a vein in your hand. Once administered, the sedative takes effect very quickly. One of the nice things about intravenous sedation is that it frequently has an amnesiac effect. You will most likely remember very little if anything about your treatment once the sedative wears off, and it might seem as if mere minutes have passed, when in fact, you have completed quite a lengthy appointment. There is a huge advantage to this too, as your dentist can complete more treatment during a single, comfortable appointment so that we can restore your dental health that much more quickly.
People who are in reasonable health can usually safely receive intravenous sedation. Before deciding if this treatment is suitable for you, our dentist will need to discuss your medical health in some depth. We must know about any prescription and non-prescription medications and any existing medical conditions. Although we want to make sure you can comfortably receive treatment, our top priority is always your safety. Some people may be more likely to experience adverse effects during IV sedation, and this includes older people who may have other health conditions and where the risk is slightly higher. If this applies to you, you could still be able to receive IV sedation safely, but we might use a smaller dose of the sedative to reduce the risk of unwanted side-effects. Also, we will continually monitor you during treatment, and you will need to stay awhile with us afterwards. We will want to make sure you are entirely safe to go home with a trusted friend or relative.
You may need to stop eating or drinking anything for several hours before your visit, but our dentist will provide precise instructions beforehand, based on the time of your appointment. We can also provide precise instructions about any medications you might need to take before your treatment or can advise you if you need to stop taking any medications before your visit.
When you visit us, we will make sure you feel as comfortable and as relaxed as possible before administering IV sedation continuously throughout your treatment. Once it takes effect, you won’t be fully aware of what is going on around you, but you will still be able to respond to our dental team if needed. We can give any local anaesthetic required after the sedative has taken effect so that you won’t feel a thing. Some people feel so deeply relaxed that they will go to sleep but can still be easily awakened if necessary. You will still be able to breathe on your own, but we will monitor you very closely during the entire treatment. Your sedative will be given by a qualified and very experienced anaesthetist who will be with you the entire time.
Once your treatment is complete, we stop administering the sedative, and you will gradually come around. Although you won’t be completely asleep during IV sedation, you will most likely feel quite woozy afterwards, which is why you will need someone with you who can bring you to the dentist and who can take you home afterwards and preferably stay with you for the rest of the day. Make sure you don’t schedule anything for the remainder of the day as you will need to rest. We will give you precise instructions on how to care for your mouth as you recover, and which will depend on the treatment received. Of course, our friendly dental team is always here to assist you and to answer any questions, so don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any queries.
General anaesthesia is usually only recommended for specific situations such as complex dental treatment and for children and adults who have acute dental phobias and fears. It can also help people who have difficulty remaining still during treatment, or who find it difficult to become entirely numb.
General anaesthesia will ensure you are entirely asleep (unconscious) during treatment, and the anaesthetic takes effect soon after it is administered. It is a procedure that ensures you cannot feel a thing during surgery, and when you wake up, it will all be over. When you receive a general anaesthetic, we will be unable to awaken you until the anaesthesia wears off, and of course, you will not remember anything. Just like IV sedation, a general anaesthetic ensures that you can receive a considerable amount of treatment during a single appointment, but it is a procedure that is quite different because you will be unconscious.
Any general anaesthetic carries a small level of risk, which is why we evaluate patients for their suitability extremely carefully. When you visit us for your initial evaluation, we can talk more extensively about the possible risk and benefits of general dental anaesthesia. We will want to review your medical history, and if you have any medical issues that could affect treatment, we may need to collaborate with other doctors who are managing your care.
Usually, you will need to stop eating and drinking approximately seven hours beforehand. Smokers should quit at least twenty-four hours before surgery, and preferably during healing. Smoking impairs your body’s ability to heal, and it is especially critical to quit if you have oral surgery or dental implants. We can advise you beforehand if you need to stop taking any medications before your treatment and if you need to bring any of your medicines with you.
When you arrive, we can discuss the procedure with you once again, and we will ensure you feel comfortable before you receive the anaesthesia. The general anaesthetic is administered by an experienced and qualified anaesthetist who we fully trust to take excellent care of you. They will be with you the entire time, monitoring your vital signs, including your heart, blood pressure and breathing, and ensuring you remain as safe and as comfortable as possible.
Once your dental work is complete, we will take you to a comfortable room where you can recover as the anaesthetic wears off. We might give you oxygen to help your body eliminate the anaesthetic more quickly. Usually, after a general anaesthetic, we will need you to remain with us for a while until we are sure you have recovered sufficiently to go home. Before you go, our dentist will talk to you about the treatment you have just received, and we will talk to you about how to care for your mouth once you get home. If we have prescribed any medication, we will explain how and when to take it, and we can answer any questions you might have about your dental care.
It is important to make sure you have someone to take you home and who can stay with you until the next day, and you cannot drive or operate machinery, and you shouldn’t make any important decisions or sign legal documents. Please don’t forget, we are only a phone call away and are always happy to answer any questions while you heal and recover.
Sleep dentistry is a great way to restore dental health in a way that is accessible and comfortable for people with deep-seated fears and phobias, or for people who have other issues that prevent them from receiving dental treatment. Equally as importantly, sleep dentistry can help people to overcome their dental fears more easily, removing some of the stress from dental visits.
It’s not like people fear from every dental treatment and take sedative before it. There are some general dental treatments like fixed braces, teeth whitening from which people might not fear and did not like to take any anaesthesia.
We realise it takes a lot of courage to face these fears, but once you have achieved good dental health, it is often quite easy to maintain it for the longer term. Our dental team can work with you, refreshing your knowledge of oral care and ensuring you use the right techniques and tools to look after your teeth at home. When you know you are caring for your dental health correctly, it can remove some of the apprehensiveness about dental visits. It is far more likely we will only need to check your mouth and clean your teeth professionally, before sending you on your way for another six months. If you do need more treatment, it is most likely only to be minor as regular dental visits allow us to detect small changes more quickly, and of course, we can still use sedation dentistry to keep you comfortable. We aim to ensure every visit is a positive experience so that gradually it becomes easier to cope with any fears.
If you are struggling with dental fears and phobias, Care Family Dental Toorak caring dental team are here to assist you. The first step is to talk to us. Once we understand your concerns, we can discuss the best way to help you overcome them, using sleep dentistry when appropriate. When we know how you feel, our dentists can tailor your treatment plan to ensure you receive all dental care in a way and at a pace that feels as comfortable as possible for you.