Who is a Sedation Dentist? | How to choose one?
Sedation Dentistry

The Sedation Dentist

Sedation dentistry has become a popular procedure in modern dentistry and most of the dentists, at least in US, offer some type of dental sedation to their patients. But that does not mean that any dentist can call himself a sedation dentist, neither that all sedation dentists can offer the same types of sedation. Most sedation dentists today offer nitrous oxide, some also offer oral conscious sedation, even fewer dentists can offer IV sedation, and only a handful are eligible to offer general anesthesia.

Who is a Sedation Dentist

Basically, a sedation dentist is any qualified dentist who uses sedative medication to provide patient relaxation, ease dental anxiety in phobic patients, or achieve patient co-operation in mentally or physically handicapped patients. The use of sedatives in dentistry can make an invasive dental procedure much more comfortable and tolerable for the patient.

Sedation dentists are sometimes called also ‘sleep dentists’ but the term is incorrect when referring to dentists who offer conscious dental sedation. Sedation does not necessarily mean that the patient will be asleep, although the patient may not remember much of what happened while he/she is sedated. Only dentists offering deep sedation and general anesthesia should be referred as ‘sleep dentists’.

Sedation Dentistry is not one of the recognized dental specialties, but using the term ‘sedation dentist’ must be strictly limited only to qualified dentists. Sedation dentistry qualified dentists are those who meet the educational requirements, and have acquired the necessary permit or licensing in accordance with their state rules and regulations for the appropriate level of sedation they offer to their patients.

The American Dental Association and most state dental boards require dentists to have specialized training in sedative techniques, equipment, medications and medical history analysis to ensure that they are appropriately skilled in the practice of sedation dentistry. Training and licensing requirements differ significantly depending on the specific level of sedation.

What a Sedation Dentist does?

The main ‘duties’ of a sedation dentist include:

a. Before the procedure:

  • Evaluates the need for sedation
  • Obtains and reviews patient’s medical history and drug usage
  • Checks suitability for sedation dentistry
  • Proposes one or more suitable types of dental sedation
  • Provides info about the advantages, disadvantages and risks of the proposed sedation method/s
  • Decides along with the patient if nitrous oxide, oral, iv sedation, or general anesthesia will be used
  • Verifies that the Informed Consent form is signed
  • Prepares treatment plan
  • Arranges for additional staff required for patient monitoring and safety measures
  • Gives preoperative instructions to patient and obtains baseline vital signs

b. During the sedation procedure

  • Administers the sedative drug (in oral sedation, the patient has taken the sedative pill prior to the procedure)
  • Checks that the required sedation level for patient comfort has been achieved
  • Checks that patient does not enter a deeper sedation level than the intended one
  • Monitors vital signs to ensure patient’s safety

c. After the procedure

  • Checks if the patient has sufficiently recovered before leaving the dental office.
  • Ensures that there is someone to drive the patient home (not necessary in case of nitrous oxide sedation)
  • Gives postoperative instructions for safe patient recovery.

The sedation dentist is responsible for providing the optimum level of relaxation and comfort in combination with minimizing the potential risks and maintaining patient’s safety.

Selecting a sedation dentist - How to choose the best one for you

Choosing a dentist to deal with your dental problems is an important task. For patients suffering from dental anxiety or with certain special needs it becomes a much more difficult task. Patients who have a fear for the dentist may have a major problem due to the additional fear that they may make the wrong choice of dentist.

A sedation dentist can help patients to fight their dental anxiety or handicap and get proper dental care. Due to the risks involved with sedation dentistry (especially in deep sedation and general anesthesia) the sedation dentist must be carefully selected.

  • Check that he/she is actually a sedation dentist. Different types of sedation require different levels of training and licensing. Check for proper licensing for the sedation method offered.
  • You may also ask about the dentist's participation in organizations that carry out continuing education for sedation dentistry, to make sure that the dentist is informed about recent techniques and protocols.
  • Ask which types of sedation dentistry are offered. If the dentist offers only one, this may not be the most appropriate for your needs.
  • Ask for the dentist’s experience in sedation dentistry. Some dentists may provide sedation only rarely, having less experience than a sedation dentist who uses it every day.
  • Ask for the available equipment for patient monitoring and if there is the necessary trained dental staff available for patient monitoring and responding to an emergency situation (especially in case of moderate and deep sedation).
  • A sedation dentist will always take full medical and drug usage history. Failure to do so may cause life threatening complications. If these are not requested from you, look for another dentist.
  • Check the Informed Consent form, and ask for clarifications. Your dentist must provide all the requested information and disclose the potential complications and risks of the procedure.

At this point, if you still do not feel comfortable with the specific dentist, it is better to look for someone else. For a successful sedation dentistry procedure this is essential; the results will not be the expected ones if you do not trust your sedation dentist.

next page -> Levels of Dental Sedation
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