Sedation dentistry helps people with anxiety or other difficulties to get regular dental care. Fortunately, it is very safe, so it’s not a source of concern for these people, who can enjoy the benefits without worrying about potential adverse effects, which are few and tend to be minor. Serious complications are rare.
Overall Safety Is High
Sedation dentistry is extremely safe for adults, one of its many benefits. Adults taking oral sedation medications are very unlikely to experience serious complications. That is, if you are a good candidate for oral sedation, find a qualified dentist, and follow instructions properly.
Few studies have been done recently to reconfirm the safety of oral sedation for adults, which has been established as being so safe that there is little concern about risks. However, one recent study showed that of 286 patients receiving oral sedation, 22% experienced a complication of some type. Over 90% of these complications were mild. Less than 10% were moderate. There were no severe complications. This study overstates the risk of complications because it included all types of sedation, not just minimal or moderate sedation such as that we practice.
The most common complication reported was airway obstruction. The second most common was nausea or vomiting.
Other possible complications include:
- Chemical dependence
These complications are rare, and they can be avoided when working with an experienced and conscientious dentist.
Is Sedation Dentistry Safe for You?
Sedation dentistry is generally very safe, but it can have higher risks for some individuals. It’s important to inform your dentist if you have certain risk factors, such as:
- Certain medical conditions
- Taking medications that can interact with sedation
- Allergies to medications used
- Certain diets
- Smoking and alcohol consumption
There are some medical conditions that are more likely to lead to complications. Obstructive sleep apnea can lead to greater airway obstruction during sedation.
More serious is a concern that medications you are taking can contribute to your risks. Some medications can interact with sedation medications to cause an adverse event. Don’t forget: in addition to prescription medication, tell your dentist about over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements you are taking. Let your dentist know about all your known allergies. Often, we can use an alternative sedation method to help you avoid medications you are allergic to. Your dentist will tell you which foods are potentially risky so you can avoid them near the day of your treatment.
Also be honest about cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption, as these can increase your risks.
Choosing a Safe Dentist
It’s also important to make sure you’re choosing a dentist who is very safe. Make sure your dentist is qualified to perform sedation. Ask about the three main characteristics of qualification:
- Training: How much training has a dentist had in sedation dentistry? Make sure it’s adequate and relevant to the type of sedation your dentist plans to use.
- Experience: There are some lessons that only experience can teach. Make sure your dentist has been performing sedation for several years.
- Equipment: Make sure your potential dentist has the required safety equipment to make sure complications don’t occur or to intervene if a complication arises.
Don’t forget to ask about the training and experience of support staff. Everyone should be trained in what to do in the event of an emergency: there should be well-establish protocols that comply with state and national requirements.
Note that in Florida, a dentist is not required to have a special permit to offer sedation dentistry for anxiety only. However, you should check a dentist’s license to make sure they are qualified to perform conscious sedation, which allows them to use a slightly heavier level of sedation. While you are checking their license, you can make sure the license is clean of disciplinary actions.