Managing Dental Anxiety with Sleep Dentistry and General Anaesthetic

Dental anxiety is common and, can often prevent someone from going to the dentist. This can mean that dental checks are sometimes missed and there is a greater need for emergency care or more complex treatment. However, it’s important to recognise that dental care plays a crucial role in maintaining not just our oral health, but our overall health.

Many dental issues are related to our lifestyles and can often be prevented with regular check-ups. So, it’s important to remember the benefits that access to dental care has on not just our mouths, but our entire bodies. For most people, managing Dental Anxiety starts with an open and honest conversation with their dentist. Sometimes more of a partnership approach is necessary and may require involvement from your GP, dentist and other health professionals.

How can I manage my dental anxiety?

There are a range of options when it comes to managing dental anxiety such as:

  • Letting the dentist know beforehand, they are always happy to help
  • Relaxation techniques such a meditation of music you enjoy
  • Asking for frequent breaks
  • Bring a friend for support
  • Arrive early so you are not in a rush or anxious
  • Ask lots of questions.

However if further support is required there are other options:

  • Medication to help with relaxation
  • Nitrous oxide gas (happy gas)
  • IV sedation and general anaesthesia.

These can be given in addition to local anaesthetic.

Sleep Dentistry

Sleep dentistry, also known as IV sedation, is a type of conscious sedation and is an excellent option for managing dental anxiety. There are a few types of sedation used in sleep dentistry including;

  • Nitrous oxide mixed with oxygen; this gas is administered via a mask which covers the patient’s nose.
  • Prescribed tablets; work by relaxing the muscles and slowing down the nervous system.
  • IV sedation; is the deepest form of conscious sedation and involves receiving sedating medication through an IV drip. This allows your dentist to manage your dosage throughout treatment.

Sedation can be administered by your dentist, or an anaesthetist who comes to the dental clinic and can only be received at a dental practice which has additional equipment. Your dentist will let you know if their practice can offer IV sedation, or they may recommend an alternative clinic.

How will conscious sedation affect me?

Having conscious sedation leads to feeling calm and relaxed. You will still be breathing for yourself, but the combination of medications causes a type of amnesia so there is no memory of the procedure. Many people drift off to a light sleep, but they can still respond to verbal prompts.

General Anaesthetic

Under general anaesthetic (GA), the patient is fully asleep, so they are not conscious or aware of the procedure being done. Sometimes the use of a GA depends on the patient’s current dental health or other medical, physical or behavioural factors.

In partnership with your dentist, you will be involved in all aspects of planning for your dental treatments. If you’re having treatments under GA, sometimes preliminary, separate treatments can be done in preparation at the dental clinic. After this, some patients even find their tolerance to having an ‘in chair’ procedure improves, and they don’t need to progress with a GA as they intended.

What procedures are common under GA;

  • Removal (extraction) of wisdom teeth
  • removal of other teeth
  • Dental implants
  • bone grafts
  • and a range of other more complex procedures

What does general anaesthetic involve?

Because of the extra level of care needed for a general anaesthetic, this is only done in a hospital with an anaesthetist. Many private health insurance providers cover part of the cost of a GA, so it’s useful to discuss this with your health fund.

Going to the dentist doesn’t always have to be nerve-racking. If you feel anxious about dental visits, you can schedule a non-invasive check-up. During this appointment, your dentist or oral health professional will simply conduct a visual examination of your mouth and discuss any concerns you may have, without immediately jumping into treatment options.

Book an appointment and speak with your dentist about your options when it comes to maintaining your oral health and managing dental anxiety. They will be able to determine the best option when it comes to IV sedation and treatments under general anaesthetic.



Dental anxiety and phobia – Better Health Channel

Oral health and dental care in Australia, Dental procedures requiring general anaesthetic – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (


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