123Dentist Answers your questions

Dental Sedation and your Health

Reducing anxiety for patients in the dental chair is a top priority for dentists. Sedation can be used in many types of dental procedures to make the dental experience more comfortable.

When is Dental Sedation Used?

In sedation dentistry, medications are used to relax patients. Many patients have a fear of going to the dentist or undergoing certain procedures, while others may have general anxiety disorder. Many people avoid going to the dentist (even when they’re in significant pain) because of this fear. Sedation helps people access the dental treatments they need to maintain their oral health.

Dentists may also use sedation for patients with specific conditions that can make dental work more uncomfortable, such as gag reflexes, sensitive teeth, a small mouth, or the inability to sit still throughout a procedure.

Sedation may be utilized in complex dental procedures, including:
• Root canals
• Tooth extractions
• Dental implant placement
• Periodontal surgery
• Other types of oral surgery

However, not all procedures require sedation. The level of sedation needed is usually determined by your dentist based on several factors, including the type and duration of the procedure, the invasiveness of the procedure, your current physical and oral health, and whether or not you tend to experience anxiety during dental work. Your dentist will discuss your options and all the associated costs and risks with you before your procedure.

Types of Sedation

Dentists rely on a variety of techniques and sedatives during procedures. Although sedation dentistry is sometimes called “sleep dentistry,” sedation medications used in dentistry are rarely used to render patients fully unconscious (general anesthesia). There are three main types of sedation used in dentistry, each of which can achieve different effects.

Nitrous Oxide Sedation Dentistry

More commonly known as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide is a form of conscious sedation that dentists use to prevent anxiety in dental patients. It enters and leaves the bloodstream very quickly, which is why many patients are able to drive home after receiving nitrous oxide.

Oral Sedation

Oral sedation is a type of conscious sedation that is often used to relax the patient during a procedure. The patient will be awake, but the sedative may make them feel sleepy. Typically, oral sedation is administered through pills that the patient will take at specific times before the procedure, as directed by a dentist.

IV Sedation Dentistry

IV sedation is a type of general anesthesia administered by an anesthesiologist in a medical clinic setting. Throughout the sedation, the anesthesiologist is there to monitor vital signs and maintain a consistent level of sedation. Although patients are typically still conscious under IV sedation, complex surgeries or procedures may require a patient to be unconscious (general anesthesia).

Dental Sedation FAQs

Does sedation eliminate pain?

Sedation can reduce the sensation or experience of pain. In most cases, dentists will use a combination of sedation and anesthetic in a dental procedure. The anesthetic is directed at removing or reducing pain, while the sedation is meant mostly to relax the body and mind. Many sedation dentistry patients do not remember the treatment experience after they leave the dental clinic.

Who administers sedation?

Dentists may be able to administer certain types of sedation, such as nitrous oxide or oral sedation pills, in a general dentist clinic. A dental anesthesiologist will usually need to administer moderate to deep sedation and general anesthesia.

Do I need to do anything to prepare for sedation?

Depending on the type of sedation, your dentist may ask you to prepare in various ways. This may include changes to your usual eating and drinking routine or avoiding certain medications. Be sure to follow specific instructions from your dentist carefully or your sedation may not be as effective.

Are there risks involved in sedation?

There are some risks associated with sedation dentistry. Always discuss the risks with your dentist before receiving sedation. Be sure to mention specific risk factors that may impact your reaction to sedation, such as sleep apnea or other medical conditions, or any allergies.

Can children be sedated?

Sedation can be used for children, especially for children who are anxious about dental work or who find sitting still in the dental chair challenging.

Can I drive after being sedated?

Most forms of sedation require that you arrange a ride home after your dental appointment due to lasting effects such as drowsiness and issues with physical coordination. Nitrous oxide is usually an exception because it wears off quickly, and many people are able to drive home after receiving it. Regardless of which type of sedation you’re given, be sure to check with your dental office about travel arrangements before you arrive for your procedure.

Find a Dental Clinic Near You

If you need dental services or you would like to know more about sedation dentistry and oral procedures, search the 123Dentist network to find a dental care provider near you.

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