Dental Sedation Explained

Dental sedation helps patients who are anxious about their treatment. The sedatives used in these methods are safe and reliable. However, you should bring a detailed medical history and discuss your current medications with the dentist beforehand.


With oral sedation, you take a pill an hour before your appointment and become drowsy but awake. This method of moderate sedation lasts for hours, so you must have someone to drive you to and from the appointment.

Nitrous oxide

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a colorless, odorless gas used to reduce anxiety and keep patients calm before their procedure. It is administered through a mask that fits over the nose. The sedative effects take effect within seconds and last only as long as the gas is inhaled. It is a safe and effective sedative for dental patients of all ages.

In addition to nitrous oxide, dentists also use other minimal sedation options such as dexmedetomidine and ketamine to sedate patients during dental procedures. These drugs can help relieve pain and allow patients to sleep during their treatment, but they do not affect the patient’s cardiovascular reflexes or breathing, according to JDAPM. Patients with high blood pressure, diabetes, or old age should not receive these medications.

Regardless of the type of sedation, patients should have an escort to the appointment who will drive them to and from the office. If they take oral medication, the escort should stay with them for a few hours until the effects of the drug wear off. This is because the sedation can make patients groggy and they might not remember their procedure. In addition to a responsible escort, patients should also bring a list of their current prescriptions and contact information for their doctor, as well as any medical history they may have.

Oral sedation

Sedation can help people conquer their fear of the dentist and get needed dental work. It can even reduce the need for invasive procedures such as wisdom tooth removal or dental implants. It can also help patients with a small mouth, sensitive nerves and gagging reflexes receive treatment. For those who are too scared to go to the dentist, sedation can make their first visit easy and pain-free.

The type of sedation used will depend on the dental procedure and the patient’s medical history. It is important to disclose all medications or supplements the patient is taking, since certain types of sedation can interact negatively with these drugs. Patients should also make sure the sedation professional is experienced and certified to administer the meds.

Some forms of sedation, such as nitrous oxide, can be administered through a mask that covers the nose. This is an effective, safe and inexpensive option that works well for most patients. Alternatively, oral sedation can be administered by pill and takes effect almost immediately. Patients with a history of heart disease, lung problems or other medical conditions may need a stronger sedation.

Oral sedation is safe for children and seniors, but it should not be given to pregnant women or anyone who has a serious medical condition like diabetes or long-standing high blood pressure. It is essential to have a friend or family member drive the patient home after the appointment, as the effects of the drug can linger for a while.

IV sedation

This sedation method is a safe and effective option for patients who have moderate to severe dental anxiety, a strong gag reflex, or sensitive teeth. Your dentist will administer the drug directly into a vein in your arm or hand. This allows your dentist to continually adjust the level of sedation as necessary throughout the procedure.

You may not remember your treatment if you experience deep sedation. However, this level of sedation is typically reserved for patients who are having a lengthy procedure such as an oral surgery or if they have a high level of dental anxiety.

Unlike general anesthesia, which makes you unconscious, deep sedation leaves you awake and alert and able to respond to commands. Your dentist will monitor you closely using electronic equipment to track your blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen levels during the process. Your dentist will also ensure you can drive home after the appointment by asking you to bring a friend or family member along for support.

Your dentist will perform a thorough clinical examination and review your medical history before scheduling your IV sedation treatment. You should not eat or drink anything other than water for at least eight hours before your appointment. Your dentist will ask you to stop taking any medications that can affect the effects of IV sedation.


Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is a mild dental sedation treatment that helps patients relax. It is inhaled through a small mask over the nose, and within minutes, you will begin to feel calm and relaxed. Nitrous oxide is safe, does not have any known allergies, and wears off quickly. It is a great option for children and adults who are afraid of the dentist or needles. Some patients may experience a feeling of heaviness or tingling in their arms and legs, but it is rare.

Oral sedation is the most popular method of sedation dentistry and can be used to treat mild to moderate anxiety. You will be given a prescription for a pill, usually Halcion (a medication in the same family as Valium), that you will take about an hour before your appointment. The sedative will make you drowsy but you will remain conscious and able to respond to the dentist’s instructions. Some patients become so drowsy that they fall asleep during the procedure, but they can be woken up easily.

Oral sedation can take a few hours to fully wear off, so you will need someone to drive you to and from your appointment and to stay with you until the effects of the sedative have worn off. If you are planning to use this form of sedation, you should discuss your medical history with the dentist and ask about the FDA-approved dose for your age and health.