Sleep Dentistry: Reducing Fear and Anxiety
Sleep Dentistry: Reducing Fear and Anxiety
Most people, if they are honest, will feel a little anxious when seeing the dentist, even those who follow a good oral hygiene routine and who have regular hygiene appointments and checkups. But for others, these feelings are amplified, and some experience genuine anxiety and fear that is so deep-seated it prevents them from seeing a dentist. It is not uncommon to find people avoid seeing a dentist until their dental pain is worse than the thought of the dental chair. If you experience dental fear, you are not alone as around one in six adults here in Australia have these feelings, while it affects one in 10 children. Some people find their dental phobia is so severe that it negatively affects their life, and this problem is estimated to affect about 5% of the Australian population, which is a significant number of people.
Problems Caused by Delaying Dental Care
When someone delays dental care because of fears and phobias, by the time they do visit the dentist, their dental is more likely to be severely affected. Unfortunately, this can mean that treatment needed to restore dental health is more likely to be more expensive, lengthier and more invasive. When someone finally plucks up the courage to see the dentist only to discover they need extensive treatment, it can reinforce negative feelings so that dental care becomes even more closely associated with pain and discomfort.
Mild Sedation Can Help Some People
Lots of dental practices offer mild sedatives such as happy gas (nitrous oxide), or they can provide patients with oral sedatives, where you simply take a pill shortly before your visit and which helps to relax you. These solutions are great for many people but are often not enough to help someone with greater fears and phobias and who just wants the dental visit to be over and done with as soon as possible so they can forget about it. Does this scenario sound familiar? Sleep dentistry could be the solution you are seeking.
Why Sleep Dentistry?
Sleep dentistry is a solution that can help people with extensive fears and phobias and is especially good for anybody who may not have seen a dentist for years or even decades. It is a treatment that is so deeply relaxing that many people fall asleep. You might want to consider sleep dentistry if you need lengthy treatment such as full mouth reconstruction or dental implants to restore your oral health, but equally, it can be helpful for anyone who feels deep anxiety at the mere thought of a hygiene appointment.
We think sleep dentistry is an excellent treatment, largely because we have seen how it has benefitted people who were previously unable to eat or smile comfortably and with confidence. When they receive treatment using sleep dentistry, they can once again eat in comfort and can talk and laugh without fear of embarrassment. From our point of view, the ability to eat properly is extremely important. When you can bite and chew foods without pain or discomfort, it’s easier to choose nutritious foods. A well-nourished body is more able to fight infection and disease, so protecting your oral health protects your overall health too.
Not Just for Nervous and Anxious Patients
Sleep dentistry isn’t just for people who feel anxious or nervous as it can often be helpful for those with a strong gag reflex and where it is uncomfortable to have dental care. Sleep dentistry helps to relax the muscles responsible for the gag reflex, so treatment is far more comfortable. We may recommend sleep dentistry for nervous or anxious children, or for kids who are in substantial discomfort or pain and who would find it difficult to sit still in the dental chair. Sleep dentistry is also useful for people with special needs and who may feel more anxious in unfamiliar environments.
Sleep dentistry solutions include intravenous dentistry and general anaesthesia.
What Is Intravenous Sleep Dentistry?
Intravenous (IV) dentistry is an excellent way to feel deeply relaxed, and often, people will fall asleep during treatment. The sedative is normally given through a vein in the hand. It’s a procedure that is sometimes called conscious sedation or twilight dentistry as we can still awaken you easily and you may not fall asleep entirely. However, you will be so comfortable that you won’t be fully aware of what is happening, and the sedatives used can create amnesia. Once the sedative has worn off, it’s extremely unlikely that you will remember much, if anything about the procedure. Also, it could seem as if only a short while has passed when in fact you’ve just completed a lengthy treatment. Because sleep dentistry will help you feel so comfortable, we can carry out a lot more treatment during just a single visit. This will help you regain oral health more quickly.
Who Can Have IV Sedation?
Usually, IV sedation is suitable and safe for people who are in reasonable overall health. We do assess anyone considering IV sedation extremely carefully and will need to know your medical history, including any existing conditions. We also need a list of any prescription and non-prescription medications just in case these could interfere with the sedation. As with any treatment you receive at our dental practice, your safety is always our main concern. While receiving this treatment, we will continually monitor you, and you will need to stay in our dental practice for a short while afterwards, so we can make sure you are okay to go home. You must have someone with you to take you home, and ideally stay with you for the rest of the day.
Some people are at higher risk of experiencing adverse and unwanted side-effects during IV sedation, and particularly people who are a little older or who have existing health conditions. When this is the case, we may still be able to use IV sedation, but the dosage might be lower, which is to reduce the risk of these side effects.
Do I Need to Do Anything Special before IV Sedation?
You needn’t worry too much as we will talk to you about how to prepare and provide concise instructions. Usually, it’s necessary to stop eating or drinking several hours beforehand, and we can provide you with an exact time, which is based on your appointment time. If you take any medications, we might advise you to cease taking them for a while before your visit.
What to Expect during IV Sedation?
With IV sedation, you can look forward to feeling relaxed and comfortable as it is given continuously throughout the treatment. The sedative takes effect quite quickly, and once it does, you will be far less aware of what is happening around you, but you can still respond to the dentist if necessary. At this stage, you may even go to sleep, although you can be easily awoken if needed. Any local anaesthetic it is given once you are sedated so that you won’t feel anything. The sedative is administered by a highly experienced and well-qualified anaesthetist who will remain with you for the entire appointment, and they will monitor you continuously until the dental work is completed. Afterwards, we will continue to monitor you as the sedation wears off. It’s perfectly normal to feel slightly woozy afterwards and ensure you rest for the remainder of the day when you get home. Before you go, we will review instructions on how to care for your mouth, but if you have further questions, we are always here to help you.
Usually, we will only suggest general anaesthetic for people who need extensive and complicated dental treatment, or for children and adults who suffer from extreme dental phobias and fears. Sometimes general anaesthetic can be helpful for people who have difficulty becoming fully numb, or who cannot sit still during treatment.
What Is a General Anaesthetic for Dental Treatment?
With a general anaesthetic, you will be unconscious or asleep for the entire treatment. The anaesthetic is quick to take effect, and by the time it wears off, it will feel as if just a couple of minutes have passed. We will not be able to awaken you during treatment until you come around from the anaesthesia, and you won’t remember anything about the procedure.
Who Can Have a General Anaesthetic?
There is a small level of risk involved with general anaesthesia, so your suitability is assessed extremely carefully. We can discuss the risks and benefits of general anaesthesia, and we will need to review your medical history extensively. If you do have any medical conditions, we may need to collaborate with other health care providers who help you manage these conditions.
How Do I Prepare for General Anaesthesia?
As with any general anaesthetic, it’s necessary to stop eating and drinking for some hours beforehand. We can give you more precise instructions when we have the time of your surgery. If you smoke, it’s best to quit at least 24 hours before treatment and preferably while you heal because smoking affects your body’s ability to heal properly. When we review your medications, we can tell you if you need to stop taking any beforehand, or if you should bring any medicines with you.
What to Expect When You Have a General Dental Anaesthetic?
When you arrive for treatment, we can answer any last-minute questions and will run through your treatment with you again. Your general anaesthetic is given by a qualified and experienced anaesthetist who we trust to look after you. The anaesthetist will be with you the entire appointment, continually monitoring your breathing, blood pressure and heart rate and ensuring you remain as safe as possible during the procedure. After your dental treatment is complete, you will be taken to a comfortable room for recovery. Oxygen may be given to help your body eliminate the anaesthetic more quickly. You will need to stay with us for a while so we can make sure you are sufficiently recovered to return home. Before leaving, we will talk to you about the treatment you have just received and how to look after your mouth, and when to take any medications we may have prescribed.
You will need a trusted friend or family member to take you home and to stay with you overnight. You won’t be able to drive or operate any machinery, and you shouldn’t make any critical decisions or sign legal documents. If you have questions at any time, please don’t forget we are more than happy to help you as you recover from surgery.
Overcoming Dental Fears and Phobias with Sleep Dentistry
Sleep dentistry can be very useful for restoring dental health comfortably and often more quickly than would otherwise be possible. It’s frequently a perfect solution for people who feel extremely fearful or who have deep-seated phobias about dental treatment that prevent them from seeing a dentist. Also, sleep dentistry is excellent for ensuring dental visits are less stressful and could help you overcome your dental fears more easily.
We know that for some people it takes a great deal of courage even to pick up the phone to call a dentist, but when you have good dental health, we can show you how to look after it more easily for the longer term. Our dental team can work with you, making sure you know the right techniques and use the proper tools to care for your mouth at home. When you know you are doing everything right, it can help to relieve some of the stress for future dental visits. It’s far less likely we will detect any problems during dental checkups, and it’s more likely that all you will need is a professional teeth cleaning, and if required, we can provide sedation dentistry for these visits. Ultimately, we hope to ensure every visit is a positive experience, making it easier to cope with fears and phobias.
Learn How Sleep Dentistry Could Help You
If you find it difficult to visit the dentist and would like to overcome these feelings, we are here to assist you. Please let us know your concerns when you initially contact us so we can understand how best to help you and discuss the most appropriate way for you to receive future dental care. We will make sure your treatment plan is tailored to ensure all dental care is provided at a pace and in a manner that feels comfortable for you.