For dentists and doctors, communicating with patients in terms they can understand is a good thing. But sometimes, attempts to simplify can just add to the confusion. For example, people who experience dental anxiety may find themselves looking for a sedation dentist in Raleigh, but they may become confused by other terms they come across, such as sleep dentistry. If you’re one of those people, you’re probably wondering what the difference is. Let me explain three terms – sleep dentistry, sedation dentistry, and general anesthesia – and how they relate to each other.
Unfortunately, some sedation dentists in Raleigh NC, and across the U.S. have used the term sleep dentistry for what should really be called sedation dentistry. Whether the intent of that was to simplify things for consumers or a marketing tactic doesn’t really matter. In reality, it has done nothing but create confusion for the general public. The confusion particularly affects those who experience dental anxiety to the extent that they would prefer to be put to sleep during their dental treatments. Those people may find themselves looking for a sleep dentist rather than a sedation dentist in Raleigh. That’s because he layman’s term being put to sleep has long been associated with the use of general anesthesia. So that’s why we have to sort through all three terms at once to clear up the confusion!
Sedation dentistry, which is marketed by some dentists as sleep dentistry, does not involve the use of general anesthesia. Because of the confusion that the term sleep dentistry creates, both the American Dental Association (ADA) and the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) have discouraged dentists form using that term. Dental regulatory boards in some states have also banned the use of the term sleep dentistry in dental marketing.
While general anesthesia could technically be considered a form of sedation (because the patient is relaxed using a pharmacological approach), sedation dentistry generally refers to the use of pharmacological approaches that do not intentionally cause the patient to become unconscious. This is in contrast to general anesthesia which does intentionally render the patient unconscious.
General anesthesia is used by dentists in some fields of dental specialty, especially oral surgeons. Because general anesthesia causes you to become unconscious, there is a much greater possibility that you might need to be resuscitated. That is why it is usually administered only in a hospital setting where an artificial airway can be maintained to support an instant resuscitation attempt. The hospital (or hospital-like) setting and staffing needed for the administration of general anesthesia also makes it a much more costly option than sedation dentistry. Oral surgeons will normally recommend that lesser sedation techniques be used in conjunction with local anesthesia whenever practical. That recommendation is based not only on helping patients to control costs, but perhaps more importantly to minimize the degree of risk to the patient.
I hope that helps clear up some of the confusion you might have experienced. If your dental anxiety (about have dental procedures done or about the use of needles to administer local anesthesia) is such that you feel you need to be put to sleep, I would be glad to explain why a sedation dentist in Raleigh is probably a good, safe, and comfortable option for you, even if you are not put to sleep with the use of general anesthesia. Part of that is understanding that consciousness is not an on/off state, but rather a sliding scale. The further along the scale you go, the more risk is involved. In 2009, the NC state dental board recently put in force regulations that assure patient safety in the use of various levels of sedation – controlling the amount of sedative used, how it is administered, the dentist’s training/experience level, the staff’s training, and presence of appropriate resuscitation equipment. If you are interested in using a sedation dentist in Raleigh, give us a call. We will be glad to answer additional questions you might have.