Dental for comfort

Dr Evangeline Alphonse, from Berwick Dental Clinic and Surgery. Photo: SUPPLIED.

By Ethan Benedicto

A new dental clinic with a focus on IV sedation is set to land in Berwick, with hopes of opening its doors in 2025.

Its completion would mark the facility as one of only three places where patients can undergo dental care from an IV sedation specialist in the state.

Dr Evangeline Alphonse, a general dentist from Berwick Dental Clinic and Surgery, will be the IV dental specialist for the new facility and is more than excited for this new development.

She’s due to receive her qualification by the end of 2025, and for her, this new clinic is the “make or break between people actually receiving care or not.”

“I’ve worked in several places, and there’s never been as high an anxious demographic as southeast Melbourne,” Dr Alphonse said.

With extensive experience with patients who are anxious or afraid to undergo dental work, she has a strong belief in holistic treatment, and that sedationists such as her would make patients more open and comfortable for future procedures.

As compared to general anaesthesia, IV sedation is delivered through an IV line and into a patient’s vein.

Its effect will have the patient partially conscious but in a highly relaxed state; they are still mildly responsive and have retrograde amnesia after the procedure.

“You have one of the only IV sedation centres being built on this side of Victoria, and for every other place in the state, in order to see patients who are anxious, need to be seen by an anaesthetist.

“They’re very difficult to book because they have to go into hospitals and have to cater to the days of the institution and even if you manage to have a centre outside of a hospital, they need to wait for the anaesthetist to come in, and they can cancel in the last minute,” Dr Alphonse said.

Rates for these services are also expensive, which is a fair process according to Dr Alphonse due to their specialist service, but the costs are still much higher than hospitals.

“When I say there’s no one to do this, there really is no one, because from what I understand right now the sedationist from Portland travels to Berwick sometimes.”

One of the only other facilities that have a speciality in IV sedation is roughly four-and-a-half hours west of the CBD and just under an hour from the border town of Nelson.

“Having this in place just means that we can finally start doing some work in the southeast, it not all the east,” Dr Alphonse said.

Sedation itself is not a new phenomenon in dental procedures, with anaesthetists having the ability to sedate patients.

However, for Dr Alphonse the difficulty with this is through coordination, since in addition to the anaesthetist, there is the dentist, the facilities, supporting staff, the hospital’s impact itself and then the patient’s schedule.

One of the bigger differences with the new clinic is in the pricing, and while there are differences between hospitals and day facilities, they both present struggles for patients looking into IV sedation.

“Hospitals are very hard to get into, you can possibly get it covered under Medicare but for day facilities, it’s all over the place.

“I know there’s one far north in Victoria where they charge $2000 an hour for IV sedation, and I also know there’s one in South Australia where they charge $400 an hour,” Dr Alphonse said.

There is no set landscape for the pricing of IV sedation, where the doctor likened it to the effects of demand and supply.

General anaesthetic, when held in a day facility is partially covered by Medicare as long as it’s held in a registered facility.

The fees that come into play revolve around the facilities, “which are around $500 an hour and up to $1000 an hour and a lot of procedures that are being done are reconstructive surgeries, which are four to five hours.”

“We’ve had surgeries before go on for eight hours so you wake up and have $8000 that is absolutely not covered by anything.

“When we have our own location, we won’t need to charge a facility fee anywhere near that high, and if we need to it’s just to cover our nurses’ fees,” Dr Alphonse said.

With a speciality in wisdom teeth surgeries and oral reconstructive work such as full-mouth rehabilitation, Dr Alphonse had a passion for sedation ever since she graduated from the University of Sydney.

While the process for accreditation is gruelling in itself, Dr Alphonse credited her team who have “been a massive help throughout the process.”

“You can imagine this being stressful, being a dentist then running my business and then getting a new building,” Dr Alphonse said.

While the planning permit was approved by Casey Council in January, excitement is still in the air, from the joys of ample parking away from schools to years of hard work finally paying off.