Types of Sedation Used at the Dentist

By Aaron Strickland, D.D.S. on August 09, 2018

nitrous oxide 

For each person who doesn’t mind visiting the dentist, it seems there is someone who avoids going to the dentist out of fear, anxiety, or stress. For these patients, dental sedation may be recommended. In this blog, we discuss some sedation methods commonly used by dentists to quell fears and anxiety about visiting the dentist.

What is dental sedation?

Dental fears and anxieties often prevent patients from getting routine and necessary dental treatments, which can only make dental issues worse. Avoiding this necessary care can lead to the development of more serious oral health conditions that require more extensive treatment. Many dentists offer sedation dentistry to ensure a patient’s comfort during dental procedures. Dental sedation methods help patients feel comfortable and relaxed during treatment, which can help speed the overall treatment process.

Dental sedation is not part of the pain management your dentist will give you. Numbing agents, shots, and oral pain medications will help with that. However, if you are anxious about the procedure itself, dental sedation can help to calm and relax you during the procedure. With certain types of sedation, you may not even remember the procedure, even though you remain awake for it. 

Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas)

Nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas, is a conscious sedation method used to relax patients during dental procedures. It is administered through an oxygen mask and is inhaled during the procedure. You will remain conscious while taking laughing gas, but because it’s a gas, it wears off quickly once you stop breathing it is. Your dentist can control the dosage throughout the treatment, so you remain comfortable and relaxed. Nitrous oxide is safe for patients of all ages and is appropriate for shorter procedures and patients who have less anxiety. Sometimes nitrous oxide is taken in conjunction with another form of dental sedation. If nitrous oxide is the only form of sedation used, patients can drive themselves home after the procedure.

Oral Sedation 

dental sedationOral sedation involves taking a prescribed dose of sedative medication, such a Valium, to help you relax during treatment. Depending on the dosage, this can provide you with mild to moderate sedation, and is often used for longer procedures or patients with higher levels of anxiety. With mild sedation, you are fully awake, but relaxed. With more moderate sedation, you are conscious, but will likely not remember your treatment. Oral sedatives take effect quickly and take some time to wear off, so you will need a someone to drive you home after the procedure.

IV Sedation

dental sedationIntravenous, or IV sedation is a moderate type of sedation administered through a vein directly to the blood stream. It has a few variations. The first variation is known as “twilight,” where you are conscious but not very aware of your surroundings. Twilight IV sedation makes you feel sleepy, but you are not unconscious, and if the dentist needs to wake you up, it’s possible. The second variation is general anesthesia. It is relatively uncommon and is typically only used for patients who need significant oral surgery. With general anesthesia, you are totally unconscious during the procedure. Following IV sedation of both variations, many patients report feeling sleepy and groggy, so you will need to have a designated driver with you at the appointment. (Please note that White River Dental does not offer IV Sedation at this time, as it is typically not necessary for most types of dental procedures.)

Is sedation at the dentist right for me?

If you avoid going to the dentist out of fear or anxiety, you are probably a good candidate for some type of dental sedation, depending on your procedure and your medical history. Sedation dentistry is also appropriate for patients with conditions that make sitting for long periods of time difficult or uncomfortable. Before your procedure, talk with your dentist about your complete medical history and any factors that may influence the procedure. Your dentist can help recommend the type of sedation that would be best for you.

Still have questions about dental sedation?

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