Is Oral Sedation Right for your Dental Practice?


Let me paint you a little scenario and see if it (or a variation of it) resonates: a patient walks into your dental practice and declares “I haven’t been to the dentist in years because whatever the last guy did, hurt like hell.”

It’s a fact. Dental phobia is a well-documented phenomenon. While statistics on the subject fluctuate, studies find that about a third of patients will delay treatment simply out of fear. For some, it’s the sound of a drill. For others it’s the anticipation of needles. For others still, it’s a combination of forces at work, with the catalyst being an earlier poor experience.

Dental care delayed means an increased risk of oral disease, inflammation and bleeding, cavities, and eventually, lost teeth.

Eyes Open to Oral Sedation

Oral sedation is an increasingly popular approach that helps patients relax so that they can sit through a dental appointment in comfort and ease. As the name implies, oral sedation is the process by which a patient is given a specific medication orally which produces varying degrees of sedation. At the most benign level, the patient can fully respond to commands, can get up to use the bathroom if need be, and respiration remains completely unaffected. Deeper levels of sedation can be achieved with higher doses.

Each state sets its own standards of what constitutes minimal and more moderate oral sedation. There is also an array of licensing and credentialing required. These standards help ensure that the dentist you’re seeing is a professional and have been state certified in the treatments they provide.

Recognizing the value of conscious oral sedation from both a patient satisfaction and a revenue perspective (It’s likely your practice will see at least a 10 percent to 20 percent uptick in your patient load and a corresponding increase in your case acceptance) my continuing education company, Implant Seminars, sponsors two different lectures on the topic of oral sedation. One course focuses on minimal oral sedation and the other focuses on conscious oral sedation. You can review the course details here. Just scroll down until you find the courses that you’re interested in.

Mind Over Matter

It’s also important to remember that while oral sedation is a valuable treatment modality, reducing a patient’s anxiety is also about the in-office experience you provide. Help all of your patients relax by creating a welcoming, calming environment. Consider soothing music or meditative sounds and a scenery channel on your waiting room TV to help establish “the mood.” Offer complementary bottled water.

You might also want to play a simple practice promotional video that includes patient testimonials that speak to how caring and gentle you are. Every little bit helps in lowering a patient’s anxiety threshold. And just think, for every anxious patient you convince to undergo treatment, they might become an even greater brand ambassador for your practice, recruiting even more patients.

This way, the next time a patient walks into your office and says “I haven’t been to the dentist in years because whatever the last guy did, hurt like hell,” you can tell him that you’re excited for his business and that thanks to oral sedation dentistry – and a killer office environment – you’re ready to prove him wrong.

So is oral sedation right for your dental practice?

In a word? YES!

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