Conscious sedation: is this provision equitable? Analysis of sedation services provided within primary dental care in England, 2012–2014

Kristina L Wanyonyi, Sandra White, Jennifer E Gallagher

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Aim - Patients receiving primary dental care may occasionally require conscious sedation as an adjunct to care. It is one of a range of options to support anxious patients or those undergoing difficult procedures. The aim of this study was to examine patterns of conscious sedation within primary dental care in relation to patient demography, deprivation status, geography (local authority, region) and type of care (Band) within England to examine equity in distribution of service provision.

Materials and Methods - Descriptive analysis of cross-sectional primary dental care data, obtained from national claims held by the National Health Service (NHS) Business Services Authority, on patients who had received one or more courses of care involving sedation.

Results - Just under 137,000 episodes of care involving sedation are provided for over 120,000 patients per year, the majority of which are for adults. Four out of ten (41%) patients were children, with 6–12-year-olds forming the largest group; 6% were aged under six years. Eleven per cent of patients had more than one course of care involving sedation, with adults aged 25–34 years having the highest rate: 1.17 (s.d.: 0.887) in 2012/2013 and 1.16 (s.d.: 0.724) in 2013/2014. There was a clear social gradient, whereby the most deprived quintile had the highest volume of patients that had received sedation at least once in primary dental care in both years (31.5%). Whilst there was a clear social gradient amongst children and young adults who received sedation, the gradient flattened among middle-aged and was flat amongst older adults. The majority of courses of care involving sedation were associated with Band 2 claims for care (88.6% in 2012/2013; 88.8 in 2013/2014). Whilst one or more patients in all higher tier local authorities received care involving sedation, there were marked geographic inequalities.

Discussion - Patients receive sedation in support of NHS primary dental care across the life course and social spectrum. Whilst the pattern of uptake of care parallels the social gradient in younger age groups overall, there are clear geographical inequalities in provision. As sedation is only one of a series of adjuncts to care which may be provided across different sectors of the health system, a wider systems analysis should be undertaken as the findings raise important issues about equitable access to appropriate care. Furthermore, there should be a greater emphasis on prevention to reduce the need for care. The implications for child oral health, access and quality are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number16002
JournalBDJ Open
Early online date26 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016


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