A significant number of Americans do not visit the dentist for regular checkups because they are too fearful or suffer from dental anxiety.  Sedation dentistry offers an excellent way to provide a safe, anxiety-free, dental experience to those who are afraid of the dentist.

Whatever the form of sedative, it is essential to be accompanied by a caregiver.  Sometimes, sedatives are provided the night before the dental visit, which means that driving to or from the appointment is not advisable.


What kinds of sedatives are available?

Before administering sedation, the dentist must analyze the full medical history of the patient, taking not of any current medications.  Depending upon a patient's medical history, certain sedation types may not be an option.

Here is an overview of some of the most common types of dental sedatives:

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas,” is used as a mild sedative.  It is delivered through a nose hood, and is administered throughout the entire procedure.  Nitrous oxide elevates the general mood and can evoke a general sense of well-being.  Most importantly, it relieves anxiety and reduces pain during the procedure.  In addition, some tingling and numbness may be felt. On some occasions, nitrous oixde may cause nausea.  For this reason, most dentists suggest only minimal food intake prior to the appointment. 

Oral Sedation

Oral medication is provided prior to treatment in order to induce a state of sedation. Though oral sedatives do not cause sleep, they usually dull the senses. This means that most patients cannot remember the pain, smells or noises associated with the procedure. Usually, a dose of medication is taken prior to the appointment.

IV Sedation

Intravenous sedation is a moderate type of sedation.  Patients who have previously experienced IV sedation often report feeling like they slept through the entire procedure.  Generally, IV sedation is used for shorter treatments.  It is administered via direct injection into the bloodstream, which means the effects are immediate.  Sometimes patients feel groggy and sleepy when the IV sedatives are withdrawn.  Designated driver must accompany the patient to the appointment and for the drive home.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia puts the individual in a deep sleep.  Usually there is a medical doctor (anesthesiologist) who will place the patient in this sedation state and monitor closely for the duration of the appointment.  The dentist will also be present to take care of the dental needs.  This type of sedation is particularly useful when the procedure cannot be performed safely otherwise or the anxiety level cannot be controlled with any other sedation methods.  In addition, general anesthesia may be useful when a child needs extensive and lengthy dental treatment and is anxious, or does not have the cooperation or ability to follow instructions. 

If you have questions or concerns about sedation dentistry, please contact our office.