Dental Health Info Article

Sedation Dentistry

Sedation dentistry offers fearful patients a relaxing way to undergo dental treatment.

Relax for a While

If it's difficult for you to imagine a trip to the dentist that's relaxing and pain-free, sedation dentistry might help change your mind. It's often called "sleep dentistry" or "relaxing dentistry" because the purpose is to help you feel at ease while the dentist provides needed dental care.

Dental anxiety keeps millions of patients away from the dentist every year. What many people don't know is that sedative dentistry can help ease dental fears and anxieties by helping you to feel relaxed during procedures. Sedative dentistry is also helpful for people who:

  • Have a low tolerance for pain
  • Have very sensitive teeth
  • Have a bad gag reflex
  • Can't sit still in the dentist's chair
  • Need a large amount of dental work done at once

What makes sedative dentistry so ideal is that it virtually eliminates the pain associated with dental procedures. Some forms don't even involve needles!

Sedative dentistry consists of several different techniques, including oral sedation dentistry and IV sedation dentistry, which leave you mildly relaxed but conscious and aware of your surroundings; and general anesthesia, which puts you completely asleep.

Oral Sedation, IV Sedation Dentistry and More!

Conscious sedation dentistry is a term used to describe sedative dentistry that renders you relaxed but awake. How much and what type of sedation you choose is up to you and your dentist and will depend on the treatment needed, your medical history and your level of anxiety. Here are several common types of conscious sedation dentistry:

Nitrous oxide -- Nitrous oxide, also called laughing gas, is a light to moderate form of dental sedation. The gas is administered through a mask placed over your nose. Inhaling the gas can feel euphoric and may even make you laugh, which is how it got its nickname. Once the procedure is over, the effects wear off quickly with few side effects. Recovery time is also minimal.

Oral Sedation -- Oral sedation dentistry involves medications taken before a procedure to produce a relaxed feeling. The effect depends on the strength of your dentist's prescription, so you may feel a little drowsy. Recovery time is a little longer with oral sedation dentistry and you'll need someone to drive you home after your dental treatment is completed.

IV Sedation -- IV sedation dentistry is considered a moderate form of sedation. It works much like oral sedation dentistry, except that the drugs are administered intravenously (in your vein). The effects of IV sedation dentistry are felt much quicker than with oral sedation; your dentist can adjust the level of sedation as needed throughout the treatment.

No matter which type of conscious sedation dentistry you choose, your dentist will still need to provide local anesthesia to ensure that you don't feel any pain. Because this is done after you've been sedated, you should feel relaxed and comfortable.

One More Option: Deep Sedative Dentistry

Unlike conscious sedation dentistry techniques, general anesthesia puts you into a deep sleep during your procedure. While using this type of sedative dentistry, you cannot be easily awakened until the effects wear off.

General anesthesia can only be administered by an anesthesiologist, dental anesthesiologist or oral surgeon. There are risks involved with general anesthesia that aren't present with conscious sedation dentistry, including the need for assisted breathing. But it's an option for those who don't respond to techniques such as oral sedation dentistry and IV sedation dentistry.

If you have questions about sedative dentistry, talk to your dentist. If you don't have a dentist, we can help you find one.