What is the difference between Sedation and General Anaesthesia?

At Corné Smith Dentistry, we do offer our patients the option to have the treatment done under General Anaesthesia or with Sedation, we generally recommend sedation for our paediatric patients, as they often struggle to lay still for an hour or more while treatment is done, however, our adult patients can also make use of sedation to reduce anxiety.

What is the Difference?

While both sedation and general anaesthesia are forms of anaesthesia and sedation is a component of general anaesthesia, they are different in several respects. Patients under general anaesthesia have a complete loss of consciousness. This means that the patient will not feel, hear or remember anything. To achieve this loss of consciousness, a mixture of agents is necessary.

In contrast, a state somewhere between being very sleepy, being relaxed in consciousness, and yet not unconscious, characterizes sedation. The patients will not feel pain but are aware of what is going on around them.

As an advantage, the adverse effects that may be associated with general anaesthesia are avoided with sedation. Moreover, patients maintain their natural physiological reflexes and are capable of breathing on their own.

Sedation is an induced, reversible and a controlled loss of consciousness. Sedation, on its own, is the depression of awareness, whereby a patient’s response to external stimuli becomes limited. Sedation may be minimal, moderate or deep. Minimal sedation is given only to relieve anxiety, with very little effect on patient awareness, while moderate sedation depresses consciousness, but leaves the patient still capable of responding to external stimuli (touch or verbal). In deep sedation, the patient only responds to pain or repeated stimuli.

Cardiovascular function is usually unaffected or maintained throughout the various stages of sedation. In contrast, it is usually impaired with general anaesthesia and careful monitoring is mandatory.

In both cases, patients are required to fast several hours before their treatment. The standard fasting duration is usually six-eight hours.

At Corné Smith Dentistry in Claremont, Cape Town, we prefer sedation, purely because it is less invasive, it is well controlled, and the patient does not have a complete loss of consciousness or cardiovascular function, it is also less traumatic for children, as it gets done in the dental chair in the practice and not at hospital, which can cause more anxiety. The risks with sedation are much lower in the controlled environment.

We also recommend sedation for longer procedures as it can be daunting for a child to lay still for two hours while treatment is done.

For all your dental needs, contact the practice in Claremont Cape Town