What is Sleep Dentistry?​​​​​​​

What is Sleep Dentistry?​​​​​​​

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When was the last time you visited your dentist? Attending regular dental appointments are often not particularly high on many people’s priority list, but for some patients, they actively do everything that they can to avoid going to see a dental professional. In some cases, this even means overlooking symptoms of a dental problem or masking pain until it becomes impossible to do so.


Fear of the dentist may be a cliché, but for as many as 15% of U.S. adults, it is a very real fear that is preventing them from receiving the oral health care that they need and deserve. If you suffer from dental phobia, not only is your dental health almost certainly suffering, but you could find that your overall health is also affected. This is because poor dental hygiene and issues such as gum disease have been linked to the development of chronic conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and even some forms of cancer.


Fortunately, there is a solution that can help you to overcome your fear of the dentist so that you can enjoy truly healthy teeth and an attractive smile for as long as possible. It is known as sleep dentistry.


What is sleep dentistry?

Also often referred to as sedation dentistry, sleep dentistry is the process of using sedative medications in order to induce a state of relaxation and calm during a dental procedure. Only one type of sedation actually sends you fully to sleep and keeps you unconscious, but the others can also relax you enough for you to be able to tolerate a dental procedure. They are combined with anesthetic so that you don’t experience any pain.


The most common types of sedation dentistry include:


Nitrous Oxide: 

This gas is administered via a mask placed over your nose and the effects last only as long as you inhale the gas, wearing off seconds after you stop breathing it. You will be aware of what is happening around you but feel calm and relaxed throughout.


Oral Sedatives: 

Taken around an hour before your appointment, oral sedatives, such as diazepam, reduce your awareness of what is happening at your appointment and feel calm and unconcerned. They can take a few hours to wear off entirely, so you will need someone to drive you home after your appointment.


Intravenous Sedation: 

Administered intravenously, these can place you right onto the edge of consciousness. You won’t have any awareness of what is happening and will have no memory of the appointment. Again, you will need someone to drive you home after the appointment. General anesthetic is also administered intravenously.


Exactly which level of sedation will be recommended for you will depend on the extent of the dental work that you require during your appointment and your degree of anxiety.


Sleep dentistry for patients with disabilities

Some patients suffer from physical or cognitive disabilities that make it difficult or impossible for them to tolerate a standard dental appointment. For example, a patient may be unable to hold their mouth open for work to be performed, while another may not understand the importance of remaining still so that any treatment can be safely performed.


If you or a loved one has a disability that makes dental treatment difficult, sleep dentistry may be able to help. Speak to our team to determine if you are a suitable candidate for this valuable service.


To discover more about sleep dentistry, or to make an appointment with our team to see if you could benefit from sleep dentistry, please contact our offices in Arlington, VA today.