Many people refer to sedation dentistry as “sleep dentistry,” which is misleading and confusing. Although there are some types of sedation that might be considered sleep dentistry, most sedation is conscious sedation, where you’re actually awake and not asleep.

Technical questions like this one are best answered in person. If you are confused about the distinction and want to know which is right for you, please call (407) 834-6446 for an appointment with  Orlando sedation dentist Dr. Michael L. Weinstock.

Is Sedation Dentistry Sleep Dentistry?

Oral Sedation Is Conscious Sedation

The biggest problem with calling sedation dentistry “sleep dentistry” is that you’re actually conscious during most sedation procedures. In oral sedation, the goal is to make you feel relaxed and comfortable, not to make you sleepy. The hope is that you will actually be conscious and able to respond to questions or follow instructions.

However, the way that sedation dentistry works is to increase the effectiveness of certain inhibitors in your brain. The most common inhibitor is gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is an important hormone in the regulation of sleep as well as anxiety. That’s why some of the same medications that are used in sedation dentistry are also used in the treatment of insomnia. Halcion, Restoril, and Xanax are all in this class of medications, which is used to treat insomnia as well as anxiety. Some people do fall asleep as a result of oral sedation.

And, to make matters more confusing, many people experience memory loss as a result of these medications and may think they were asleep even if they were awake the entire time.

What about Unconscious Sedation?

Conscious sedation is in contrast to “unconscious sedation,” deeper levels of sedation generally induced intravenously. Either this or general anesthesia is probably what people are thinking of when they use the term “sleep dentistry.” Because you’re knocked out or unconscious, people compare this sedation to being asleep.

However, even this is a false comparison. Being under sedation or anesthesia is not like being asleep. When you enter these levels of sedation, your breathing and brain function are impaired. You don’t experience the same levels of brain activity and rejuvenation, and your breathing has to be monitored because it can sometimes stop. In general sedation, you are usually not breathing at all–a machine is breathing for you.

So, although you are unconscious, you are not sleeping.

The Other “Sleep Dentistry”

And then there’s the other confusion that results when people use “sleep dentistry” for sedation dentistry: there’s a completely different meaning for sleep dentistry.

Sleep dentistry is often used to refer to the treatment of snoring, sleep apnea, and other sleep disorders by dentists. As this practice has increased in recent years, people increasingly associate sleep dentistry with this discipline.

Hopefully, you understand now why we don’t like to call sedation dentistry sleep dentistry. If you have more questions or want to learn about using sedation dentistry to overcome your dental anxiety in the Orlando area, please call (407) 834-6446 for an appointment at the office of Dr. Michael L. Weinstock in Altamonte Springs.