Sedation Dentistry

  • What is Sedation Dentistry?

    The purpose of oral sedation dentistry is to allow a dentist to work more effectively by helping a patient become as comfortable as possible with the use of sedative medications administered orally and sublingually.

    Appropriately trained dentists can use a variety of protocols customized to a patient’s physiological and pharmacological needs. A number of oral agents developed especially for these purposes, subjected to rigorous research and testing, are safe and have been used for decades. Those in the benzodiazepine class, such as triazolam and diazepam, have “amnesic” properties , meaning that patients remember little to nothing of their time in the dental chair by the next day. Other medications sometimes used in sedation protocols include antihistamines, like hydroxyzine, and insomnia medications, like zaleplon, which aid in relaxing and calming a patient.

    Sometimes referred to as “comfortable” or “relaxation” dentistry, the terms describe the feelings most patients experience during their oral sedation appointments. The term “sleep dentistry” is inappropriate. Patients are never meant to sleep through their appointments and should always be able to verbally and physically respond to cues from the doctor or team.

  • What is the difference between conscious sedation and anxiolysis?

    There are typically dosing limitations involved with anxiolysis, usually a dose or doses on the day of treatment not to exceed the manufacturer’s maximum recommended dose (MRD) of the medication (to achieve the intended level of sedation). However, these sedation laws can and do vary from state to state . Anxiolysis protocols are designed to treat healthy ASA I & II patients ages 18+ for 1-4 hours of treatment.

    Incremental protocols allow more flexibility in dosing and often allow a doctor to administer incremental or supplemental doses to maintain a consistent level of sedation for longer periods of time.

    The following states have regulations and requirements regarding dentists providing anxiolysis or minimal sedation: Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, Utah, West Virginia, North Dakota, New Hampshire, and Washington.

  • I’m already giving 5mg of Valium® – what’s so different about this?

    Every state has different oral sedation dentistry regulations . Some states require a permit even for nitrous oxide administration and/or anxiolysis, so it’s important to know your state dental board’s rules. If you’ve given your patients Valium® in the past for anxiolytic purposes, then you are already aware of some of the potential benefits of sedation. However, there is more to sedation dentistry than just Valium®. Countless years of research have been dedicated to studying and finding methods and new medications to alleviate pain and anxiety since Valium’s® arrival on the market in 1960’s. Additionally, there are many other components of sedation dentistry that are important to learn, including proper patient selection/assessment, patient monitoring, benzodiazepine reversal agents, patient health history intakes, and drug-drug interaction/contraindication screening. Learning to provide optimum sedation using safe and predictable sedation protocols enables you to provide higher quality care to your patients.

    Fulfill requirements with DOCS Education Courses.

  • How safe is OCS?

    Historically, adult OCS has been one of the safest modalities in dentistry. DOCS Education members alone have completed an estimated 2,000,000 successful sedation procedures over the past seven years. One reason for this outstanding record is that patients’ vital signs are monitored using a pulse oximeter/blood pressure monitor. This monitor is easy to use yet sophisticated enough to measure blood pressure every five minutes and continuously measure pulse rate and blood oxygen before, during and after a sedation procedure. Several states have enacted regulations requiring its use. See your state's regulations.

  • Will my malpractice insurance premiums rise?

    Usually not and what’s more, some insurance companies are actually welcoming sedation dentists.

    You need to notify your carrier in writing that you are providing oral conscious sedation. And in Utah, your premium will increase $200/year because of the self-insurance system there.

  • Why should I bring my team? Do they need to be certified?

    A few states require some team certification, such as Illinois, Missouri, and West Virginia. The more appropriate question is how much training does your team need to be effective and efficient?

    With sedation, your team has added roles and responsibilities, including being the first point of contact with fearful patients. Your front office staff needs to be able to explain to each patient how the entire process works. They are also responsible for patient admittance and dismissal, including sedation-specific forms and documentation. It’s critical for clinical team to understand how to appropriately monitor patients’ vital signs using equipment like a pulse oximeter with a blood pressure monitor, and how to recognize potential emergencies before they become an actual emergency.

  • Do I need a permit if I only give a small dose of Valium® the night before and maybe a small dose of Halcion the next morning before treatment begins?

    Maybe. It depends on the state in which you practice. While many states allow anxiolysis without a permit, some have minimal requirements. Be sure to check your state regulations especially for those in CO*, MA*, ME, NC*, NH, OR*, UT, WA, WV*, and in Canada: AB, BC, ON.

  • What patients benefit the most from sedation?

      • Patients with high dental anxiety and fear often exhibit behaviors that delay treatment or make it difficult to provide. They may wiggle and squirm and ask questions during treatment that compromise a dry field. They often require a tremendous amount of reassurance. With OCS these patients will become your easiest patients to treat because they are no longer afraid, but relaxed and comfortable. And since OCS produces anterograde amnesic effect, the patients seldom remember much about the procedure. Their anxiety often falls to a very low level and they become much like your most relaxed patient.
      • Patients with a severe gag reflex. Relaxing the gag reflex can make the dental experience comfortable for both patient and practitioner. The patient no longer needs to worry about the pending sensation and the dentists can work without worry of sudden jerking movements.
      • Time constraints—those who need to get more dentistry done in fewer visits. In today's world busy executives and everyday people alike cannot afford to take repeated time off to have the dentistry they want completed. Sedation allows them to have it completed in fewer visits, opening the door to the smile they've always wanted.
      • Existing patients who have put off needed treatment, or who abandoned treatment plans. A huge percentage of patients who come in for prophylaxis have often put off routine treatment for decades. The simple reason behind it: they are secretly anxious. Although they will sometimes come in for hygiene appointments, they stop when it comes to more extensive treatment because they are afraid. When they discover that they can have their dentistry performed while they are sedated—without the use of an IV needle—people become much more likely to complete their treatment plans.
      • Patients who suffer from acute or chronic jaw soreness. Patients who have difficulty remaining open for long periods of time will find sedation a relief. The muscle relaxation properties of sedation medications can make longer appointments possible. By using Oral Conscious Sedation in combination with frequent resting times, extensive treatment completed in one visit comfortably and patients experience little to no jaw soreness post-operatively.
      • Patients who complain that they can’t get numb. A small percentage of patients do have difficulty getting numb. Oral Conscious Sedation helps these patients experience a comfortable dental visit.
      • Patients with physical limitations such as back or neck problems. OCS helps to relax patients who may have chronic back or neck problems allowing them to comfortably sit in the chair for lengthy procedures. Sedation dentists report that these patients experience little or no post-operative back or neck soreness.
      • Patients with extensive treatment needs often delay care overwhelmed by the enormity of the work to be done. Sedation dentistry can make what may seem like a great deal of treatment, feel like a few short visits.
  • How does OCS get existing patients to accept the treatment they’ve long put off?

    Many sedation dentists report something very interesting - that a huge percentage of patients who come in for prophys put off routine work, often for years and years. The reason is that many patients are secretly anxious. Although they will go for a hygiene appointment, they stop when it comes to more extensive treatment because they are secretly afraid. However, once these existing patients are made aware that their dentist offers sedation, they want to have the treatment performed! Oral Conscious Sedation is a great way to help your patients get the restorative dentistry that they’ve been postponing.

  • What post-operative effects can my patients expect?

    Sedation protocols require the patient be dismissed to a responsible caregiver who will drive them home. Once home, the patient will stay with their companion until all of the effects of the sedation have worn off.

  • What are some of the common side effects of these sedation medications?

    • Anterograde amnesia: Due to the amnesic effects of the medications, patients have little or no recollection of the treatment. It is not uncommon for our dentist to get calls from patients who are amazed that they don’t remember the appointment. The front desk then says, “Have you looked in the mirror yet?” The patient excitedly realizes that they have a new smile and they have no memory of the treatment being performed at all! They are so happy because memories of dentistry are not something they savor.
    • Less post-operative soreness: When patients are afraid, their threshold for pain is much lower. Fear and anxiety trigger the release of certain chemicals in the brain, like adrenaline, which put a patient’s “fight or flight” instincts on high alert. They anticipate that something is going to hurt and so they tense their muscles, even if it is subconsciously, leading to additional soreness post-treatment. With sedation, a patient’s apprehension and hypersensitivity to pain is virtually eliminated, thus reducing the likelihood and severity of post-operative discomfort.
    • Dry mouth: During a sedation appointment the sedative will decrease salivary flow and allow the dentist to perform treatment in a dryer environment.
    • Hiccups: A small percentage of patients (3%) will experience a period of hiccups lasting no longer than ten minutes. They are self-limiting.
  • Do I need a permit to prescribe Valium for the patient to take the night before to reduce anxiety? What about 0.5mg of triazolam in a single-dose on the morning of treatment?

    In many states, you may prescribe Valium® by virtue of your dental license and DEA permit. As for the triazolam, it depends in which state you practice. Many states are beginning to require minimal training and/or have specific requirements. Be sure to check your state regulations especially for those in CO*, MA*, ME, NC*, NH, OR*, UT, WA, WV*, and in Canada: AB, BC, ON.

  • I’ve always had difficulty treating anxious patients. How will that be different with sedation?

    Treating anxious and fearful patients without sedation can be difficult. They often require extra consolation and reassurance, and are not always cooperative. It can take an hour to complete what would ordinarily take five minutes. However, with the proper amount of sedation, these patients are safely and quickly transformed into the best and most enjoyable patients to treat. Because they are fully relaxed, you are able to work more efficiently. Their jaws naturally loosen, they become cooperative, and quite pleasant to be around. In the end, you get better results and a happier patient.

  • Is it hard to work on sedated patients?

    Sedated patients are the easiest patients to treat. They are a lot like “Dexter” the dummy we all worked on in dental school, except unlike Dexter, they are conscious and able to do as you ask, yet they are totally relaxed and comfortable, allowing you to do your dentistry. It is truly the best of both worlds - relaxing for the patient and relaxing for you.

  • What is the standard of care regarding “titration”?

    Incremental dosing of an oral sedative is quite valuable, effective, and safe when properly done. It enables you to maintain maximum patient comfort even for lengthy procedures while using a minimum amount of sedative. Sedation dentists provide periodontal care, endodontic therapy, crown preps and temporaries, all in one visit. What makes this possible is incremental dosing.

    When you understand drug kinetics and use them to determine the application of an incremental dosing formula, then a predictable result is highly likely.

    This means that when properly administered, incremental dosing is quite safe. Special programs at NYU are customized for NY & NJ.

  • What about drug interactions?

    Sedation medications are chosen based on an individual’s medical history. Training should include learning how to utilize sophisticated, yet easy-to-use dental-specific drug interaction software that automatically cross-checks a patients’ medications (even herbal and nutritional supplements) with sedative medications. In addition to taking a thorough medical history from each patient, drug interaction screening and patient monitoring (with equipment such as a pulse oximeter with a blood pressure monitor), helps ensure oral sedation dentistry is completed safely and effectively.

  • I’m already seeing too many patients in a day

    As you become more comfortable with sedation dentistry, you will be able to schedule fewer—yet more productive—appointments. This is because sedation patients often require more treatment during a single visit. Some dentists who report their days were filled with too many short, low-value appointments are able to create schedules that allow them to see a smaller number of patients while still increasing practice profitability. This is usually accomplished by setting aside one day every week solely for sedation treatments. Dr. Anthony S. Feck, Dean of DOCS Faculty, has written several articles on the subject matter illustrating his personal keys to success.

  • Will insurance pay for OCS?

    The codes for anxiolysis (D9230) and non-IV sedation (D9248) can be used to save the patient and your office time and money. Insurance companies often pay for all four quadrants of scaling and root planning (D4341) in one appointment if performed while the patient is sedated.

  • Can I use the term 'Sleep Dentistry' in my advertising?

    No, unless you have a general anesthesia permit. You shouldn’t even say “nap,” “doze,” “twilight,” “dream,” “snooze,” or “wake up.”

  • What can I say in my advertising?

    If you have a sedation permit (oral or IV) appropriate for your state, you can say “sedation dentistry” in your advertising. Some states may require you to say “minimal sedation.” Otherwise, you should say “anxiety-free dentistry” or “relaxation dentistry.” If you are in a state that is otherwise unregulated for oral conscious sedation, you can say “sedation dentistry.”

  • Where You Can Meet Your Requirements?

    Upcoming courses are being presented by the DOCS Education and have been specifically designed to meet most state and province regulatory requirements. “Oral Sedation Dentistry”' is a three-day, hands-on course. Check your Sedation Regulations here.

  • AGD PACE-Approved

    All DOCS programs are AGD PACE-Approved courses. Oral Sedation Dentistry covers 9 simple techniques that will help you provide relaxation for your patients, perform larger cases, and do the dentistry you love to do in a more comfortable environment. You will also participate in hands-on experience and training in critical techniques for ultimate patient safety, something emphasized at all DOCS courses. Whether your goal is simple anxiolysis or oral sedation, this class has the systems you need to get started.

  • Who is DOCS Education?

    DOCS Education is a membership group of over 3,000 dentists who routinely practice safe adult oral sedation. DOCS graduates have safely and successfully completed an estimated 1 million oral sedation procedures in the US and Canada. But there are more patients who need your help.