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Sedation Dentistry: What Every Patient Needs to Know

People the world over fear the dentist. The thought of having their teeth cleaned leaves them petrified, and they won’t even contemplate having more-invasive procedures done. Many of these individuals refuse to visit the dentist unless they are in severe pain or have an infection that won’t clear up. Neglecting regular dental check-ups and leaving problems until they can no longer be ignored puts the person’s overall health at risk, as oral health and general health care are closely linked. Sedation dentistry offers a solution for men and women who cannot bear the thought of spending time in the dentist’s chair.

What Is Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation dentistry involves the use of medication to allow a person to relax as they have dental work carried out. People often refer to this as sleep dentistry, but nothing is further from the truth. The dentist works with the patient to determine the level of medication needed for the patient to relax. For instance, a person who panics simply entering the dental practice might benefit from medication that relaxes them before they arrive at the office. Dentists refer to this as mild sedation, and it’s enough for many people to have their dental work complete at Foothills Family Dentistry.

On the other hand, dentists use general anesthesia for patients in need of extensive dental work. Often, these patients put off having any work done until they couldn’t wait any longer, and the dentist needs to do extensive work to restore their oral health. This might involve extractions, dental implants, bridges, and more. Moderate and deep sedation offer other options for patients. Moderate sedation or conscious sedation allows the patient to stay awake, but they often slur words when they speak and they have little memory of the procedure. Deep sedation allows patients to hover on the edge of consciousness, but they can be awakened.

Sedation Methods

Patients must know the different sedation methods available today to discuss them with the dentist. Each option offers its own benefits and drawbacks.

Laughing gas often comes to mind when a person hears about sedation dentistry. Patients breathe a combination of nitrous oxide and oxygen through a mask to relax before and during the dental procedure. The dentist controls the amount of gas going to the patient, and the gas wears off rapidly. Patients find they can drive home after the procedure, which isn’t the case with other sedation methods.

Dentists might offer oral sedation for patients who have difficulty walking into the dental practice. Halcion remains the preferred choice of many dentists, and patients take this pill approximately one hour before their procedure. Patients find they become drowsy but remain awake with this medication. If a mild sedative isn’t enough, dentists increase the dosage, and patients might sleep through their procedure. However, dentists can wake them up easily once the work is finished.

Certain patients require moderate sedation provided through an IV. The dentist inserts a needle into a vein and provides the medication through the vein to allow it to work rapidly. Throughout the procedure, the dentist continues to adjust the level of sedation to meet the needs of the patient.

Deep sedation and general anesthesia provide similar results. Patients are either mostly or completely unconscious with these sedation methods. When a patient is given general anesthesia, they cannot be easily awakened. The dentist either reverses the anesthesia with medication or the patient must wait until the medication wears off.

Patients usually need a local anesthetic in addition to the sedation. This numbing medication relieves any pain during the procedure, so the patient isn’t uncomfortable.

Who Benefits From Sedation Dentistry?

Patients who fear the dentist benefit from sedation dentistry, but they aren’t alone. Anyone with a low pain threshold should speak to the dentist about this option, and the same holds true for anyone who has difficulty remaining still in the dentist’s chair. A person with a bad gag reflex and those with sensitive teeth often prefer sedation dentistry. Additionally, patients in need of extensive dental work often request sedation dentistry, as they can get large amounts of work done in a single appointment.

Parents frequently ask if sedation dentistry is appropriate for their child. Dentists use nitrous oxide or laughing gas in children, and any dentist can provide this sedation option. A few dentists use oral sedation, but the dentist must undergo training to ensure they give the proper dose.

Which Dentists Offer Sedation Dentistry?

Dentists must undergo training in sedation techniques before offering them to patients. Most dentists offer minimal sedation, such as nitrous oxide or pills, and many dentists have received training to provide moderate sedation. Very few dental practitioners today offer deep sedation or general anesthesia, as offering this level of sedation requires completion of the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) program in general anesthesia. Dentist anesthesiologists and oral and maxillofacial surgeons tend to be the only practitioners offering these sedation options. The state dental board oversees the use of sedation, and many states require dentists to get a permit before offering sedation dentistry.


Anesthesia comes with a risk, whether they administer the medication in a hospital, dentist’s office, or other medical setting. For most people, this risk remains small. Nevertheless, obese individuals and those with obstructive sleep apnea need to speak with their doctor before receiving anesthesia in any setting. Furthermore, the dentist needs to review the patient’s medical history to determine if sedation is the right option.

Make sure the dentist has the necessary training and will use the recommended dose as determined by the FDA. The dentist needs to go over everything with the patient and have the patient sign an informed consent form. Finally, the dentist needs to monitor the patient throughout the procedure to catch any problems quickly.

If you avoid the dentist because you have a deep-seated fear of dental work, it’s time to look into sedation dentistry. This option benefits many individuals who have been neglecting their oral health. It may be what you need to get the dental care required to keep your mouth healthy and your smile beautiful.

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Lakisha Davis
Lakisha Davis
Lakisha Davis is a 20-year-old business studies student who enjoys watching tv shows, stealing candy from babies, and listening to the radio. She is creative and friendly, but can also be very boring and a bit selfish.
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