How much does sedation dentistry cost?

Sedation dentistry is a term that is used to refer to a dental treatment for which anesthesia is used to relax the patient. While the patient is sedated, they are not unconscious and are able to breathe on their own; they are sedated in a way that is almost like sleep. Sedation dentistry is a popular option for procedures that will require an extensive amount of time, and it is also a great option for patients who are unable to control their movements, and patients who have anxiety or significant fear about going to the dentist. Patients who are sedated for sedation dentistry procedures are conscious, but they are put into a sleep-like condition, causing a sort of amnesia about the procedure; the intent is that patients will remember very little or nothing from the dental procedure. There are varying types of sedation dentistry, each of which provides a varying degree of dental sedation. Your dentist can work with you to determine which degree of sedation is appropriate for you, based on your level of anxiety and the complexity of your dental procedure. Some types of sedation dentistry include inhalation sedation, which uses inhaled nitrous oxide; conscious sedation with sedatives; and intravenous, or IV, sedation. With these various sedation dentistry techniques, people who might otherwise avoid going to the dentist can get the treatment they need, no matter how simple or significant that treatment may be.

There are four main types of sedation dentistry that are currently commonly used. Oral sedatives, such as diazepam, can be prescribed for the patient to administer the night before a dental procedure, or a little while before a dental procedure, depending on the severity of the patient’s anxiety. Oral sedatives provide relief from anxiety only and do not alleviate pain, so a local anesthetic will also be administered when oral sedatives are used. Intravenous, or IV, sedation also provides no pain relief, therefore necessitating a local anesthetic for more significant procedures. Nitrous oxide sedation, which also necessitates a local anesthetic, is an inhaled sedative, also known as laughing gas. Finally, there is general anesthesia, which is the most intensive form of sedation, rendering the patient unconscious and completely unaware of their surroundings. No local anesthetic is necessary when general anesthesia is used. These four types of dental sedation offer differing degrees of sedation. The lightest type of sedation is called “anxiolysis.”  Many forms of sedatives can induce anxiolysis, but nitrous oxide inhalation is the most common method of achieving anxiolysis. Moderate dental sedation, which is more extreme than anxiolysis, can be achieved through nitrous oxide inhalation or with IV sedation. In a more moderate state of sedation, the patient will be extremely relaxed yet awake and able to respond to verbal stimulus. When under deep sedation, patients are lingering on the precipice between consciousness and unconsciousness. Patients will be completely unaware of commands, and, in some cases, become so relaxed that they need assistance with breathing. The deepest result of anesthesia is unconsciousness, which leads to the closing of the airway and is reserved for oral surgery procedures.

Estimates indicated that about 15% of the population of the US avoids visiting the dentist because of phobia or anxiety. Sedation dentistry can help this population maintain and improve their dental health by reducing or eliminating the fear. Some anxiety can be mild, causing people to repeatedly delay or cancel dental appointments. Some can turn into a larger phobia, leading people to either avoid dental visits altogether, or become physically ill or sleepless at the thought of an imminent dental appointment. This avoidance eventually leads to a decline in oral health, which can cause infection in the gums and teeth and a compromised ability to chew food, causing overall health to decline as well -- not to mention the shame that may come from the appearance of a smile full of decay and infection. Children, especially, need to have regular dental checkups as their mouths develop, and children may have a particularly deep anxiety toward dental visits. To prevent this anxiety from developing, experts recommend that children start having regular dental checkups when they are very young, so that children will become accustomed to them and view them as a normal experience. Enforcing good oral hygiene practices in children is a good way to prevent excessive dental visits and is important for multiple other reasons as well. Additionally, if you have dental anxiety, try not to convey your own fear to your child. Pediatric dentists are specially trained to help children who are anxious feel safe during dental visits, so look for a pediatric dentistry specialist to help minimize your child’s anxiety. If left unchecked, childhood dental anxiety can grow into a full-blown phobia with age, so try to nip any childhood dental anxieties in the bud by following the preceding recommendations.

Cost of sedation dentistry is affected by insurance coverage, location, and the dental team you select. Depending on the type of sedation used, costs range from a few hundred dollars to more than a thousand. Light sedation, using oral sedatives or nitrous oxide gas, usually costs anywhere from $200 to $300. This cost does not include the cost of the dental treatment and only reflects the cost of sedation. Moderate intravenous sedation is used less often in dental visits, and general anesthesia is usually used only in dental surgeries. Both of these types of sedation carry additional risk and therefore also carry additional costs, and they may be more invasive than necessary for your dental procedure. If, however, you and your dentist decide that IV sedation or general anesthesia are appropriate for your dental needs, you should consult with a reputable sedation dentist to learn the costs. Because IV and general sedation are administered by a dental anesthesiologist, who charges per hour of anesthesia, and because the procedures vary greatly in length, your dental team can give you a more accurate estimate of possible costs. In all cases, sedation is charged separately from the dental procedure itself, and in many cases, sedation dentistry is not covered by dental insurance. Many dentists who offer sedation dentistry work in concert with national companies that offer financing plans for dental procedures, like Care Credit, and some dentists also offer financing options with local companies. Be sure to ask about financing options when you call to request a consultation if you’re potentially interested in sedation dentistry.

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