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Killer dentist on ITV's The Secret

"Some gas and air to make you relaxed, do you feel better?"

I don't get much time to watch TV, but I try and watch anything that's dentally related because I'm a bit sad like that. There was a bit of noise about "The Secret" on social media which intrigued me so I decided to watch it on catch up. I've just caught up with the first 3 episodes. Here's the trailer for the "The Secret".

I wasn't sure whether to blog about this or not as it could add to the many fears patients already have about visiting the dentist. But I thought it would give me a good opportunity to reassure patients.

The drama is set in 1991 and portrays the true story of married dentist Colin Howell who embarks on a passionate affair with married Sunday school teacher Hazel Buchanan who. In their intense desire to be together, they murder their spouses by carbon monoxide poisoning and make it look like a tragic suicide pact. After the crime, Colin is happy he can finally be with Hazel and even calls his insurance company to claim on his deceased wife's life insurance. However Hazel is overcome by guilt. She doesn't feel comfortable being physical with Colin because "God is watching", but Colin convinces her he can relax her with inhalation sedation in his dental office. It becomes more disturbing when Colin starts sexually abusing a patient while she is sedated, which makes for very uncomfortable viewing.

I was quite shocked watching it and these were some of the reactions on twitter after THAT episode

These reactions are not surprising at all after watching that. When you put your trust in a professional, and especially when you are in a very vulnerable state, you would never expect to be violated in such a way. Hopefully I can reassure you.

So what is dental sedation?

Dental sedation, or conscious sedation for dentistry, is used for patients who are very nervous or anxious about dental treatment or for very long or uncomfortable dental treatments. There are different ways you can be sedated at the dentist - inhalation sedation (nitrous oxide - this is what Hazel had through the nose piece), IV sedation (through a vein - this is what the other patient had although the show was a bit inaccurate as that's not how we deliver the medication, we use a cannula not a needle) or oral sedation (tablets).

The aim of sedation is to relax you enough to complete treatment more comfortably. You are not fully asleep during sedation - hence the name CONSCIOUS sedation. This means that you are still aware of your surroundings and can communicate with the dental team. Usually, you will feel like you are in a dream-like state or feel a bit drunk. There can be some amnesic effects so you may feel like you have been asleep and cannot remember anything about the procedure.

Today, there are strict standards that all dentists must follow if they perform dental sedation which you can find here. This is really good resource for everything you need to know about dental sedation.

All members of the dental sedation delivery and care team must have undertaken appropriate validated education and training and demonstrated an acceptable level of competence. On the show, the dentist asks the nurse to process the xrays and leaves the room whilst the patient is sedated. When you are sedated you should never be left alone with the dentist - it is required that a sedation trained dental nurse stay in the room throughout the procedure. If the dentist requires some equipment from elsewhere another member of staff will act as a runner. The sedation nurse will continually monitor you during the procedure and has to record this in a log. You will be monitored to ensure you are not over-sedated, that you can still respond to commands.

Dental sedation can make you feel drowsy for up to 24 hours after the procedure. Because of this, you will be asked to bring an escort, usually a family member, with you to your appointment who will wait on the premises while you have treatment and then take you home after. If you feel more comfortable, you can request for your escort to be present during the sedation.

Please don't let the show put you off having dental sedation because it works incredibly well for patients who are very nervous about dental treatment.

You can find out more about dental treatment for people with dental phobias and dental sedation on our page here.

A really good website that covers other aspects of dental phobia is

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