The dental sedation teachers group

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The Dental Sedation Teachers Group provides a national forum for those who are interested in the teaching of conscious sedation in dentistry. The Committee includes representatives from all UK dental schools, The Society for the Advancement of Anaesthesia in Dentistry and the Association of Dental Anaesthetists. Membership of DSTG is open to dental and medical practitioners and dental nurses.


  • To improve standards of teaching of conscious sedation in dentistry

  • To continue to develop a common curriculum in conscious sedation

  • To encourage the practice of conscious sedation in all branches of dentistry

  • To exchange ideas on practice and research in the field of conscious sedation

Contact details and the text of all DSTG documents are available at:


Dental Sedation Teachers




Conscious Sedation






1 Aims and objectives of undergraduate teaching in conscious sedation

2 Core undergraduate curriculum in conscious sedation

2.1 Knowledge

2.2 Skills

2.2.1 Assessment and treatment planning

2.2.2 Intravenous sedation

2.2.3 Inhalational sedation

2.2.4 Monitoring

2.2.5 Management of sedation-related complications

2.3 Attitudes

3 Competence in the practice of conscious sedation
4 Recommended clinical practice
5 Postgraduate training in additional conscious sedation techniques
5.1 The need for additional techniques

5.2 Entry to training

5.3 Training

5.4 Assessment and record of experience



Control of pain and anxiety is fundamental to the modern practice of dentistry. Patients who have a real fear of dental treatment and those who are faced with the prospect of an unpleasant and possibly distressing procedure rightfully expect that the option of conscious sedation should be available to help them.

In order for the profession to comply with the current professional guidance on pain and anxiety control from both the General Dental Council and the Standing Dental Advisory Committee of the Department of Health, it is imperative that undergraduate students are provided with the necessary knowledge, skills and confidence to enable them to offer effective and safe conscious sedation for those patients who need it.
Inhaled nitrous oxide and intravenous midazolam are effective for the majority of patients and have an exemplary safety record. Teaching undergraduates to use these techniques whilst they are in a dental school environment is straightforward. By contrast, the organisation of clinical sedation experience for anything more than a handful of postgraduate dentists is fraught with practical and contractual difficulties. If we are to provide effective anxiety control for our patients we must ensure that all new dental graduates have the appropriate knowledge and skills.
This document offers standards and guidance for individuals who are responsible for, or involved in, the teaching of anxiety control for dentistry.

David Craig

GKT Dental Institute

London May 2005


The Dental Sedation Teachers’ Group (DSTG) provides a forum for those who are interested in the teaching of conscious sedation in dentistry. The Committee of DSTG comprises representatives from all UK Dental Schools and also other organisations involved in the teaching and practice of conscious sedation.
In order to encourage and standardise the teaching of conscious sedation, DSTG published the following two documents: “Sedation in Dentistry: Undergraduate Training: Guidelines for Teachers”(1999)1 and “Conscious Sedation in Dentistry: The Competent Graduate” (2000).2 These guidelines described the syllabus and clinical training required to produce dentists who are capable of independent conscious sedation practice for dentistry.


The General Dental Council (GDC) has indicated in a variety of documents that those who practise conscious sedation for dentistry must be appropriately trained and experienced in the techniques that they use.3,4 Such experience can only be gained by supervised clinical practice.


Since November 1998 there has been a significant change in the strategy for the provision of pain and anxiety control in dentistry. The GDC’s limitation on the provision of general anaesthesia has expanded the need for the effective and safe use of conscious sedation techniques in dentistry.


As conscious sedation is an integral part of dental practice, teaching must start at the undergraduate level and then continue with General Professional Training and Continuing Professional Development. Augmenting the skills of a new graduate is much easier than providing postgraduate training in conscious sedation from scratch.


The first two publications from the DSTG considered the training that is required to allow dental graduates to use conscious sedation as part of their practice in a primary or secondary care setting. In 2003 the Group published a discussion paper entitled “Conscious Sedation in Dentistry: Training for Safe Practice in Advanced Sedation Techniques for Adult Patients” in order to open the debate on how those who wish to extend the range of their conscious sedation experience may access appropriate training.5


“Training for Conscious Sedation in Dentistry” consolidates and updates previous DSTG guidance. It has been written by a DSTG Working Party comprising Carole Boyle (Chair), David Craig (GKT), Lesley Longman (Liverpool), Avril Macpherson (Edinburgh), Nigel Robb (Glasgow) and Shelagh Thompson (Cardiff).



To provide the undergraduate student with the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for the competent practice of conscious sedation for dentistry.

To enable and encourage the student to acquire adequate clinical experience in managing patients who require conscious sedation.


i) To provide core knowledge relevant to the practice of conscious sedation in dentistry.

ii) To promote a critical and caring approach to the management of anxious patients.

iii) To promote an understanding of:

  • sedation in the management of pain and anxiety

  • communication skills in the management of patients requiring 
    conscious sedation

iv) To have clinical experience in:

  • assessment and treatment planning of patients who require 
    conscious sedation

  • administration of sedation

  • dental care for sedated patients

  • recovery and discharge of patients who have received conscious 

v) To appreciate the limitations of undergraduate experience and understand 
the importance of continuing professional education




To acquire a knowledge and understanding of:

  • history of pain and anxiety control in dentistry

  • causes, signs and symptoms of dental anxiety/phobia

  • spectrum of patient management techniques including the distinction between conscious sedation and general anaesthesia

  • behavioural/non-pharmacological management anxiety/phobia

  • patient assessment for sedation including indications, contraindications and consideration of the planned dental procedure

  • cardio-respiratory physiology and anatomy relevant to sedation

  • specific problems relating to young, special care and elderly patients

  • importance of concurrent disease and drug therapy in patients undergoing sedation

  • applied pharmacology of contemporary conscious sedation agents

  • requirement for training of sedation nurses and their role as the second appropriate person

  • equipment required for the administration of sedation including that used for monitoring

  • principles and practice of monitoring appropriate physiological variables

  • importance of effective airway protection and management

  • importance of good local analgesia in sedation techniques

  • potential difficulties and dangers of over- and under-sedation

  • principles of safe recovery and discharge following sedation

  • medicolegal aspects of the provision of conscious sedation

  • health and safety issues affecting the provision of conscious sedation

  • recognition and management of complications of sedation



2.2.1) Assessment and treatment planning

To be able to:

  • effectively communicate with anxious patients

  • take a full medical, dental and social history including a physical evaluation

  • assess need and suitability for sedation and/or behavioural management techniques

  • formulate an appropriate treatment plan

  • obtain valid consent

  • give verbal and written pre- and post-operative instructions

  • produce accurate, clear and concise clinical notes

  2.2.2) Intravenous sedation using midazolam

  To be able to:

  • select and prepare all necessary drugs and equipment

  • assess suitability of vein(s) and perform intravenous cannulation

  • recognise signs and symptoms of extravascular injection

  • titrate an intravenous drug and recognise the appropriate level of sedation

  • insert a mouth prop

  • administer supplemental oxygen

  • assess fitness for discharge and give postoperative instructions

  • remove intravenous cannula and dispose of safely

  • reflect on the quality of the sedation


2.2.3) Inhalational sedation

  To be able to:

  • check an inhalational sedation machine and scavenging system

  • connect breathing system and select appropriate nasal mask

  • adjust the inhalational sedation machine as necessary

  • titrate nitrous oxide concentration and recognise the appropriate level of sedation

  • assess fitness for discharge and give postoperative instructions

  • reflect on the quality of sedation

2.2.4) Monitoring

To be able to:

  • measure peripheral arterial blood pressure

  • perform clinical monitoring to determine the level of consciousness, co-operation, demeanour, respiration (rate and depth), pulse (rate and rhythm) and colour. Interpret and respond appropriately to change

  • use a pulse oximeter, interpret readings and respond to change.

  • recognise equipment artefacts and malfunctions

2.2.5) Management of sedation-related complications

  To be able to:

  • recognise and respond to over- and under-sedation, respiratory depression and airway obstruction with the use of appropriate equipment

  • remain calm, decisive and purposeful whilst handling difficulties or complications


To demonstrate:

  • a caring attitude to anxious patients and a recognition of the value of conscious sedation in the dental management of patients

  • an awareness of the limitations of undergraduate experience and the need to seek assistance and/or refer patients

  • an appreciation of the role of multidisciplinary care and a willingness to liaise with personnel from other disciplines

  • the appreciation of the need for the dental team to keep up to date with contemporary sedation practice


At graduation, dentists should be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of using conscious sedation techniques. They should be capable of providing effective sedation for selected patients undergoing dental procedures in which they are experienced. This means that the new graduate should:

  • be able to assess a patient's need and suitability for conscious sedation and

  • possess both the ability and confidence to apply knowledge and skills relating to inhalational sedation and intravenous sedation (using midazolam).


Whilst it is impossible to guarantee that any level of training and experience will always achieve competence in any area of clinical practice, the suggested target figures below represent a sound foundation in conscious sedation techniques. They are similar to those achieved by postgraduate students who have undertaken clinical attachment programmes in conscious sedation. However, common sense and experience suggests that there should be some small degree of flexibility based on individual aptitude and the rate of assimilation of knowledge and skills.


INHALATIONAL SEDATION: 10 CASES (both adults & children)

INTRAVENOUS SEDATION: 20 CASES (both restorative & oral sugery)

These figures assume that the graduate will be working with appropriate support as an operator-sedationist in a suitably equipped environment, assisted by an appropriately trained dental nurse.

The new dental graduate cannot expect to be competent to manage all patients requiring conscious sedation. However, most adult or child patients who are fit and well (ASA I/II) and who require dental treatment that falls within the clinical experience of a new graduate will be suitable.

Undergraduates may also be offered the opportunity to observe or be involved in the management of patients receiving treatment using alternative conscious sedation techniques but they should be firmly discouraged from practising these techniques without further appropriate training and clinical experience.

The graduate must recognize his/her limitations and understand the need to refer unsuitable cases to an appropriate care setting. He/she must also be aware of the role of continuing professional education and the need to keep both knowledge and skills current.


5.1: The need for additional techniques

The conscious sedation techniques referred to above (inhalational sedation using a nitrous oxide/oxygen mixture or intravenous sedation using midazolam) have been demonstrated, over many years, to be safe and effective in the vast majority of adult patients. However, these techniques are not always successful and it is important to recognise that for those patients who cannot cope, additional methods of pain and anxiety control have to be available. Professional guidance from the General Dental Council, the Standing Dental Advisory Committee (England & Wales) and the National Dental Advisory Committee (Scotland) makes it clear that patients have a ‘right to expect’ and dentists have a ‘duty to provide’ adequate pain and anxiety control.3,6,7

It is axiomatic that all sedation techniques must produce the state of conscious sedation. The definition of conscious sedation3 describes a target state and not a prescriptive list of ‘approved ’methods. This target state may be achieved in different ways. The chosen conscious sedation technique must be:

  • safe

  • effective

  • appropriate for that individual, undergoing that procedure on that occasion

  • the simplest technique which will achieve the first three criteria

Implicit in such justification is the reason why other sedation techniques are inappropriate or sub-optimal. The safety margin of all sedation techniques depends upon the complexity of the technique and the familiarity and frequency with which it is used by the sedationist. Techniques where the dose of sedative drug may be titrated against the patient’s response are usually preferable.

Additional conscious sedation techniques include:

  1. Oral sedation using a benzodiazepine

  2. Transmucosal sedation using midazolam

  3. Mixed route techniques

  4. Multiple intravenous drugs

  5. Continuous intravenous infusion techniques

  6. Inhalation sedation with a volatile anaesthetic agent

With the exception of (e) and (f) the above techniques are suitable for use by an operator-sedationist. Continuous intravenous infusion devices require careful and continuous monitoring and there is currently no dedicated inhalation sedation equipment available which is suitable for the delivery of a volatile anaesthetic agent.

5.2: Entry to training

Dentists who wish to undertake training in additional sedation techniques must be proficient in the use of inhalational sedation using nitrous oxide and intravenous sedation using midazolam. They must be able to provide evidence of considerable recent experience in the provision of conscious sedation as an integral part of their clinical practice. For techniques (c) – (f) we would suggest that a dentist should have provided at least 100 cases per year over a period of at least three years.

We consider that the use of oral and intranasal sedation techniques by practitioners who are already competent in intravenous sedation requires very little additional training.

UK postgraduate qualifications in sedation (Certificate, Diploma or MSc) may provide evidence of appropriate training and supervised clinical practice.

5.3: Training

Postgraduate courses will vary in the range of conscious sedation techniques taught. In general the courses should be organised to revise the core curriculum as well as covering the additional pharmacology and clinical techniques.

Supervised clinical practice involving the whole dental team is an integral part of all training in conscious sedation. The GDC requires those administering conscious sedation not only to acquire knowledge and skills but also hands-on clinical experience prior to starting independent practice.

5.4: Assessment and record of experience

A combination of formative and summative assessment is most appropriate. This might involve a clinical logbook (record of experience), written or MCQ type examinations, clinical skill tests (OSCEs), oral examinations and an assessment of clinical competence.

The maintenance of a clinical record of experience which includes undergraduate and postgraduate experience is to be encouraged. Such a logbook would provide evidence for satisfactory entry to additional sedation training.


1. Sedation in Dentistry. Undergraduate Training. Guidelines for Teachers. Dental Sedation Teachers Group. May 1999

2. Conscious Sedation in Dentistry: The Competent Graduate. Dental Sedation Teachers Group. August 2000

3. Maintaining Standards. Guidance to Dentists, Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists on Professional and Personal Conduct. General Dental Council, London, Amended Nov 2001.

4. The First Five Years. A Framework for Undergraduate Dental Education. Second Edition. General Dental Council, London. August 2002.

5. Conscious Sedation in Dentistry. Training for Safe Practice in Advanced Sedation Techniques for Adult Patients. Dental Sedation Teachers Group. June 2003

6. Conscious Sedation in the Provision of Dental Care. Report of an Expert Group on Sedation for Dentistry. The Standing Dental Advisory Committee. Department of Health, London. 2003

7. National Dental Advisory Committee, Dental Clinical Effectiveness Programme. Clinical Guidance on Conscious Sedation in Dentistry. In press.

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