Sedation versus general anaesthesia – know the difference?
I get loads of very anxious/phobic patients telling me they need to be asleep (or occasionally in more descriptive terms, ‘knocked out’ ) before even thinking about going ahead with dental treatment.
When I say I can sedate, but not fully put to sleep, I can see them look alarmed, upset and very concerned.
So what is the difference?
General anaesthesia is a state of complete unconsciousness. Since a report (The Poswillo Report) in 1990, the use of general anaesthesia in general dental practice has been completely abolished. Why? Truthfully – because it’s a risky business.
Although we take the title of doctor, we are not medically trained and to be perfectly honest, do not have the experience or expertise to do the job of our anaesthesist colleagues in hospital who have trained long and hard to be able to! General anaesthesia should never be taken lightly and if it can be avoided, one always should.
So What Is the alternative?
Conscious sedation is a technique where your dentist administers a solution which calms you allowing you to have dental treatment. You are still able to speak and respond to your dentist.
As you are conscious during sedation, this technique is much safer than general anaesthetic as your protective reflexes are still functioning.
In layman terms? We use a medicine that helps you completely relax. You become drowsy (some people have a good nap, some snore!), very forgetful (so you don’t remember what happened after the procedure is finished) BUT you still retain your own breathing and own reflexes. The result? Virtually all the advantages of a general anaesthesia without the risky part! You can go home the same day (of course with an escort who will look after you for 24 hours) and feel good that you got your treatment done without having to be knocked out!