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How to Choose a Sedation Dentist


A sedation dentist can provide a sedative as part of dental treatment for patients who need such extra care, whether due to a phobia or a medical condition, or for a child or elderly person. The sedation methods most commonly used are inhalation anesthesia, oral conscious sedation, general anesthesia, and intravenous (IV) sedation. If you are trying to find a qualified sedation dentist for you or a family member, read the tips below for advice on choosing a practitioner.

What to Look for in a Sedation Dentist

Today there are many dentists promoting "sedation dentistry," but an exact definition of the term " sedation dentist" does not exist. The local anesthesia that's been used for decades (where the doctor injects the patient with a syringe of Novocaine) could be considered "sedation," but that's not really the type of sedation that many people are looking for. Some people would just rather not be conscious when they're in a dentist's chair. In fact, a very common desire for a sedation dentist is based on the dental fears and phobias that many people have toward getting dental treatment, whether for minor problems or more extensive treatments for root canal work, full mouth reconstruction, or gum disease. It's been estimated that 9 to 15 percent of adults in the United States avoid having dental work done because of their fear of the dentist. The fear can range from mild revulsion to near hysteria due to previous trauma. A qualified sedation dentist can be a godsend for these patients.

Keep in mind the following issues to discuss with a sedation dentist:

  • Is the dentist experienced at sedation? Get the details. Is he or she affiliated with any local hospitals?
  • What types of patients does the sedation dentist treat routinely? If you're not the kind of patient seen regularly in that practice, you may want to keep looking.
  • What type(s) of sedation does this dentist offer? Sedation options are definitely not "one-size-fits-all," and they're not interchangeable with each other.
  • Does this sedation dentist have partnerships with dental specialists such as prosthodontists, periodontists, and endodontists to make sure that all of your dental needs can be met? Can he or she have such specialists treat you while you're under sedation? Could treatments be combined to reduce the number of appointments necessary?
  • For your child: Is this dentist considered a pediatric sedation dentist? The same questions as above apply.
  • Can this sedation dentist work with your insurance plan?

If you'll be traveling a significant distance to see a sedation dentist, be sure to ask the office about how long you'll be sedated, and whether you'll need to arrange help with your travel.

Sedation Dentists for Special Needs Patients

The physically or mentally disabled and the elderly often have special needs when it comes to extensive dental work. It can be difficult for some patients to remain still in the dental chair for long periods of time, and the procedures and setting may be frightening or disorienting. A qualified sedation dentist is aware of the special needs of patients and is able to deal with dementia, fatigue, irritability, or ill health. If you are trying to find a dental provider for a loved one with special needs, you can find a dental practice in your area through DocShop. It is best to then speak directly with someone from the practice to inquire about the sedation dentistry methods appropriate for your loved one.

IV Sedation Dentists

Intravenous (IV) sedation dentists have received specialized advanced training and must be certified by their state Board of Dental Examiners as a specialist IV sedation dentist or oral surgeon. IV sedation, also known as "deep conscious sedation," is thus not as commonly available as other conscious sedation techniques such as oral conscious sedation, but it is a safe and effective treatment for patients with moderate to severe anxiety. The medication is administered directly into a patient's bloodstream, and thus the major advantages of IV sedation are that:

  • It acts quickly to sedate the patient. Oral medications often require an hour or more to take effect.
  • If the patient is not sedated enough during the treatment, the dentist can administer more medication through the IV, and the effect is instantaneous.
  • In addition, the patient will usually have little or no memory of the dental treatment.

Before, during and after the treatment, the IV sedation dentist will monitor the patient's heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. Patients who receive IV sedation are generally not allowed to leave the dental office alone.

Finding a Pediatric Sedation Dentist

A pediatric sedation dentist may be the appropriate dentist for:

  • Infants with dental care needs
  • Children who need very extensive dental work
  • Children with a very strong gag reflex
  • Children who've had a traumatic experience at the dentist
  • Medically compromised children
  • Mentally handicapped children

Pediatric sedation is a dental specialty that requires two to three more years of training beyond dental school, including practice experience in a hospital environment. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) passed guidelines for the use of conscious sedation, deep sedation, and general anesthesia in pediatric dental patients in 1985, and these guidelines have been updated several times since then. The AAPD also offers yearly continuing education courses on pediatric sedation to update the knowledge and skills of dental professionals. Ask your pediatric sedation dentist about whether he or she belongs to the AAPD, and how much experience he or she has had with this specialty.

Locate a Dentist in Your Area with DocShop

When you're considering getting dental treatment from a sedation dentist for yourself or your loved one, it's important that you find an experienced and knowledgeable sedation dentist in whom you can place your trust. You can find a sedation dentist in your area today through DocShop. When you go in for a consultation, your sedation dentist can further explain the process and possibilities of sedation dentistry.

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