Sedation Dentistry

If the thought of going to the dentist leaves you terrified, sedation dentistry may take away some of your anxiety. Sedation can be used for everything from basic teeth cleanings to invasive procedures. It simply depends on your level of fear.

Sedation dentistry uses medication to help patients relax during dental procedures. The levels of sedation include:

  • Minimal sedation, where you are awake but relaxed
  • Moderate sedation, where you may slur your words when talking and not remember much of the procedure
  • Deep sedation, where you are on the edge of consciousness but can still be awakened
  • General anesthesia, where you are completely unconscious

What types of sedation are used in dentistry?

  • Inhaled minimal sedation: You breathe nitrous oxide (laughing gas) combined with oxygen through a mask that is placed over your nose. The gas will help you relax and your dentist controls the amount of sedation you receive. This gas also wears off quickly and allows you drive yourself home after the procedure.
  • Oral sedation: Depending on the total dose given, oral sedation ranges from minimal to moderate. For minimal sedation, you can take a pill, which is typically a member of the Valium drug family. This pill will make you drowsy, but still awake. Larger doses may be given to produce moderate sedation. Oral sedation is the most typical anesthesia associated with sedation dentistry.
  • IV moderate sedation: You receive this sedative drug through a vein so it can work quickly. This method allows the dentist to continuously adjust the level of sedation.
  • Deep sedation and general anesthesia: These medications will make you either almost unconscious or deeply asleep during the procedure. While under general anesthesia, you cannot be awakened until the effects wear off or are reversed with medication.

Who is sedation dentistry appropriate for?

  • Those with a low pain threshold
  • Those who can’t sit still in the dentist’s chair (children, for example)
  • Those who have sensitive teeth
  • Those with a bad gag reflex
  • Those who need a large amount of dental work completed

Nitrous oxide is safe for children and sometimes a trained pediatric dentist can administer oral sedation. This will always be administered safely and kept within the recommended dosage for the child’s age and weight.