Sleep dentistry

You may have heard of sleep dentistry. But is it for you?

Byline: Dr David Power

Sleep dentistry is targeted towards a person who is either generally fearful, or is undergoing a complex procedure. The most common—almost half the cases we do here at Power Dental—are for people undergoing extraction of their wisdom teeth, which we’re doing every couple of weeks.

There are two parts to sleep dentistry. The most common one is intravenous sedation performed in the chair, which is 95 per cent of what we do. This is for people who are fearful (or uncooperative such as those suffering from dementia, or are autistic). Those patients have to be sedated so they can get through their required treatment comfortably. While we sedate the patient, the patient will still keep their reflexes and breathe on their own. It’s the same sedation you would have if you’re having a gastroscopy or a colonoscopy. To get an understanding of what it feels like, if I were to say to you ‘open your mouth’, you generally can open it, but you may not remember it.

Sleep dentistry is very useful if you’re having a complex procedure, such as if you are having all your remaining teeth taken out. But that’s not the only time we use it. For example I have a lady patient who requests sleep dentistry for fillings and cleaning as she prefers to be asleep for that. That’s no problem.

There are a few things patients should be aware of before undergoing the procedure. You have to fast on the day. It will depend on what time of day you’re coming in as to whether you can have any breakfast or not. Also, be aware you cannot drive for 24 hours afterwards—you must be accompanied home. You can’t go alone because sedation affects your reflexes and makes you drowsy. You have to take that warning seriously. It’s possible you feel fine and then half an hour later you walk out onto a road without looking.

The other type of sleep dentistry is for those where intravenous sedation is not suitable—mostly for young children. Sedation can have what we call a paradoxical reaction on some young children, so instead of sedating them, it excites them, so we’re running around the surgery trying to catch them! In these cases we offer a full general anaesthetic, which we do downstairs in our own building at the Waratah Private Hospital.

Intravenous sedation costs range from approximately $400 for a standard procedure, up to one hour. You will get a percentage of that back from Medicare.