Some adults feel uneasy before seeing their dentist. This fear is often triggered by a bad dental experience when they were young after seeing unnerving images of dentists with drills and sharp instruments in cartoons and movies.

Thankfully, modern dentistry is nothing like the cartoons! New technology and techniques mean that many procedures are much more advanced and can be gentler than what you might imagine.

Dr Greg Thomas, Principal Dentist of Bupa Dental Rochedale, says many adults still experience dental anxiety. “Their fear can be so intense that they might delay or avoid going for dental check-ups and dental work,” says Dr Thomas. “For those patients, the usual numbing agent may not be enough—they might need something more to help them relax during the entire dental procedure.”

That’s why the Rochedale team offer sedation options that can help people manage their dental anxiety and can change their experience. Below, Dr Thomas explains the options, as well as some important tips.

Nitrous oxide for dental anxiety

Dr Thomas notes that nitrous oxide (often called “happy gas”) can be an effective way to reduce dental anxiety for some adults and children.

“Before and during dental work, patients breathe the odourless and tasteless gas in through a mask, which can help to relax them. Afterwards, the effects usually disappear within five to ten minutes.”

Twilight or IV sedation

“Some patients feel so stressed about seeing the dentist that sedation may be a better option,” explains Dr Thomas.

He notes that IV (intravenous) sedation has an advantage in that it can be administered in the surgery by an anaesthetist or dentist specially trained in IV sedation. “It’s milder than a full anaesthetic, so it generally makes people feel like they just had a short nap for ten minutes.”

“At Bupa Dental Rochedale, we're extremely fortunate to have Dr James Auld handle our IV sedation,” he says. “He’s not only a very experienced dentist, he also helps train new dentists in IV sedation at Sydney University—so he’s up to date on all the latest techniques.”

How dental sedation works

At Bupa Dental Rochedale, when you come in for your dental procedure, it usually takes about 20 minutes for an anaesthetist or trained dentist to put in the IV line and administer sedation. Anaesthetic cream can also be used beforehand on your skin to reduce the sensation of the line being put in.

During the dental procedure, professionals constantly monitor blood pressure and measure your pulse and oxygen. If you’re having several different procedures, the sedation may be adjusted, with more being used during extraction and less being used for a dental filling.

Dr Thomas says this can help you feel more comfortable, regardless of the procedure. “After a filling, I’ll usually lower the level of sedation so that the patient still feels relaxed but can co-operate with me to ensure their filling feels nice and smooth and completely comfortable.”

Before and after the procedure

Dr Thomas has two very important pieces of advice for pre- and post-treatment:

  • Taking your medical history: During a preliminary appointment, sedation specialists like Dr Auld will go through your medical history. “Issues like heart problems, for example, might mean a patient needs to have their dental procedure under IV sedation in an ‘out patients’ hospital setting,” says Dr Thomas.
  • Post-procedure preparation: “After a short period of recovery, you’ll be awake and can get up and walk around. But if you sit down or rest, you could very quickly fall asleep again. For this reason, patients shouldn’t drive or use heavy equipment after twilight sedation and should have someone with them at home after the procedure.”

Find out more

Learn more about treatments at Bupa Dental Rochedale, or schedule an appointment with their friendly team.

Not in the Rochedale area? Find a Bupa Dental clinic near you.