I was introduced to sedation dentistry 23 years ago while I was a resident in a two-year GPR/Oral Medicine program. I obtained my credentials, but let the certification go. Since dental school, I felt obligated to help people with high fear and anxiety based on a personal experience I had in the dental chair, but thought it was easier to give patients oral medication and let them come to the office already partially sedated. At the time, sedation was pretty much unregulated and there was little to worry about in terms of sedation licensure unless you wanted to provide more advanced types of anesthesia.
Ten years ago, a mentor and friend, Dr. Tony Feck, recommended we focus on the sedation niche in our dental practice. He told me that, in the future, dentists would face more legislation; that transitioning out of simple oral conscious sedation into moderate oral and I.V. sedation would be the smart thing to do. I hold Dr. Feck’s opinion in high esteem, so my partner and I decided to follow his advice.
Since then, we have created a sophisticated sedation and anesthesia component to our dental practice. His advice turned out to be one of the pillars of our success and has empowered us to treat more complex restorative and surgical cases safely and comfortably.
As predicted, sedation dentistry regulations have changed considerably in recent years. And, as I learned, the more educated dentists and their teams are on the subject, the more it pays off. These days, both the public and legislators demand more precautions and a safer environment, and so they should. Too many dental patients have had complications in the chair because practitioners were undereducated or not following best practices.
I encourage dentists to consider making the time and financial investment necessary to become licensed to practice sedation dentistry and to have their entire team trained as well.
1. Sedation creates opportunity for growth. Providing sedation options for patients opens the door to a large group of underserved, yet financially secure, individuals who want their dental work done as easily and comfortably as possible. Unlike many patients who are insurance driven or bargain hunting, their chief concern is anxiety prevention. Although they can be a little challenging to work with in the early stages of the dental relationship, once they form a bond of trust and have a positive experience, these patients tend to become loyal missionaries. Some of our best patients were once the most fearful and cynical. In short, your practice will be attractive to more people.
2. Sedation makes it easier to expand your services. Sedation dentistry allows clinicians to provide more extensive and complex care for longer periods of time. If you have decided “drill and fill” dentistry just isn’t quite as much fun as it sounds, and you want to expand into more complicated types of care, you’ll have an easier time influencing patients to accept such treatments if they know they will be relaxed throughout the procedure.
In addition, you will be more relaxed and work more efficiently, if you don’t have to worry about an uneasy or uncooperative patient. If you ask most dentists if they would like to see 10 patients a day or two patients a day, those of us with 20 years of experience opt for more essential dentistry on fewer patients. Dentistry can become more enjoyable, less stressful and more profitable.
3. Being certified and licensed to provide sedation dentistry increases your worth. The more highly skilled and educated you are, the more value you can bring to a dental practice. This is especially true if you’re a younger dentist in an associate or early partner position. There are a number of skills within dentistry you might be able to acquire, but few come with certification and even fewer with an actual licensure.
Being recognized as an expert in a particular pursuit within the dental field can give you an advantage over other dentists competing for the same position. Becoming a valuable asset to the dental office you work in has obvious benefits.
Have I convinced you that looking into sedation dentistry, or advancing your education to higher levels of certification within sedation dentistry, might be beneficial? If yes, you’re probably wondering about next steps. To start, you might want to visit an office that provides the level of sedation dentistry you are interested in so you can see it done first-hand. I also suggest talking to sedation dentists to get an idea of what their workflow is like.
From there, find a reputable educational program that teaches and certifies dentists. In my experience, the best courses and teachers are the ones given by practicing dentists who are not only educators, but providers. Once you have been trained, do what it takes to implement your knowledge and grow your practice!
Many sedation dentists I have spoken to over the years have told me there isn’t a better day in the office than a day with a sedation patient. I have found this to be true. Helping people with fear and anxiety disabilities has turned out to be one of the most rewarding things my team and I do.