Are you afraid of the dentist or having dental work? If so, if you’re like other people with dental anxiety you may put off dental care until your needs are so extensive that you can’t put it off any longer.
You should know that you don’t have to let dental anxiety keep you from the dental office any longer. Specially trained dentists offer sedation and sleep dentistry options so that every patient can be relaxed throughout their entire visit.
Sedation dentistry uses three different types of sedation:
Nitrous Oxide – also called “laughing gas”, nitrous is delivered through a nosepiece that the patient breathes from during the appointment. The nitrous gases are also mixed with oxygen and help the patient into a very relaxed state. The patient is still fully aware of their surroundings and can interact with care providers.
Oral medication – taken about an hour before the appointment, oral sedation medications create a light sleep in the patient. The patient still responds to the dental care team asking questions, for example, to turn their head or open their mouth. They are fairly easy to arouse, as if taking a light nap.
Intravenous medication – delivered through an IV, this method of sedation puts patients into a deeper sleep than other types of dental sedation treatments. The patient is unaware of what is being completed during the appointment until the sedation medications have been cut off. Dental care under fully unconscious sedation is usually completed in a hospital setting using a specially equipped surgical suite.
In all hospital sleep dentistry appointments that require treatment (i.e. fillings, root canals, crowns), local anesthetic is used. This numbs the nerves in the area where the treatment will be completed and allows patients to wake up without any pain.
All hospital sleep dentistry patients have their heart rates, blood pressure and pulsoximetry levels monitored throughout the appointment. For patients using oral or IV sedation, they will need to be accompanied by another adult friend or family member to transport them during the day of their appointment.
Severe anxiety, phobia, severe gagging, life threatening allergies and the inability to use local anesthetics are among the myriad of reasons that over 100,000 Georgians are unable to receive the dental care they need in a dentists’ office. For these people, dentistry ranges from almost torture to a life threatening experience – yet many want and need care.
In 1999, to little fanfare, the state senate of Georgia passed a law to help these people. Since their only alternative is to have their dental work done while they are truly and fully asleep, “Senate Bill 66” mandates Medical Insurance to pay the additional costs of general anesthesia and hospital costs for these people. Once the often prohibitive costs of being fully asleep in the hospital are handled, a lot more of these people can afford the dental care they really need.
Dr. David Kurtzman, a Marietta, Georgia, dentist who has been treating these cases for over twenty (20) years says, “No one really talks about this law – certainly not the insurance companies!” He had worked for years trying to get these costs paid. Even when he got to speak with people within the insurance companies he called, nobody ever mentioned it. Not until a chance call to the Insurance Commissioners’ office in Atlanta lead Kurtzman to the obscure bill did his office start getting more and more coverage for their patients.
The law states that medical insurance must pay hospital and anesthesia fees for any person for whom a successful result cannot be expected using local anesthesia (Novocaine, etc.) “Because of physical, intellectual or other compromising medical condition” of the insured patient. Anyone who really needs it can now expect coverage for sedation dentistry.
“We are seeing people who have lived with pain and infection for literally years!” says Kurtzman. Care under general anesthesia in the hospital operating room gives thousands of these people hope for a healthy, painless and beautiful smile.
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