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Everything You Should Know About Dental Sedation

Did you know there are multiple types of dental sedation? Let’s uncover the details together.


A small piece of paper with the word CALM written on it

Sedation dentistry is a good option to help calm your nerves and eliminate discomfort when undergoing dental work. Your dentist may recommend a form of sedation that will allow you to feel comfortable so you are not fidgeting in the chair during a tooth extraction or filling. There are many types of sedation for dental treatments, each with its unique benefits. Here is what you should know.

Types of Sedation

Sedation makes it possible for those with dental anxiety to visit the dentist without fear. This is important because it allows you to get the necessary work done to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Avoiding the dentist due to nerves could cause further complications and an unhealthy oral cavity. Sedation is also a great option if you have a bad gag reflex since it can prevent this from happening.

  • Laughing Gas – The most common anesthetic used is simply nitrous oxide which is administered through a mask placed over your nose and mouth. When you breathe it in you will feel lightheaded but remain awake during the entire dental procedure. You will be able to communicate with your dentist for the duration of the treatment.  
  • Oral Sedation – Common, yet not as common as laughing gas, this sedation comes in the form of a pill taken before your dental procedure. You will be fully awake during treatment but very tired, which may cause you to fall asleep. Depending on the type of medication, you will need to wait several minutes to an hour before the effects are felt.
  • IV Sedation – This is a moderate type of sedation where you are conscious during treatment but may not remember anything after it wears off. The sedative is administered intravenously through your vein. You will be monitored the entire time, and the sedation strength can be adjusted throughout the procedure. You will be awake but unaware of what is going on around you. If, however, the dentist asks you to open your eyes or mouth, you will be able to process the information and react accordingly.  
  • General Anesthesia – The strongest form of sedation will render you completely unconscious. Only dentists with a completed Commission of Dental Accreditation program for general anesthesia can offer this type of sedation dentistry. General anesthesia can take several hours to wear off to the point where you are fully conscious.

In all these situations except for laughing gas, you need to have someone to drive you to and from the dentist and take care of you after. This is because you will feel groggy for a while. Have someone you trust stay with you for at least 3-4 hours after being sedated.

A lady smiling with her hands on her chin

Dental Treatments Matched to Their Sedation

Are you wondering which sedation is recommended for each treatment?

  • Laughing Gas – This is commonly administered during mild treatments such as a cleaning or filling where the patient would rather be calm in the dentist’s chair than extremely nervous. It is used for patients who experience dental anxiety and gag reflexes that can get in the way of dental work being completed. 
  • Oral Sedation – Anything from a dental cleaning to getting wisdom teeth extracted can be reasons for this type of sedation. Again, if used for a cleaning, it will be for the patient’s comfort to eliminate feeling anxious.
  • IV Sedation – Root canals or oral surgery may require IV sedation.
  • General Anesthesia – Again, a root canal or oral surgery can call for general anesthesia. The more severe dental treatments will typically require this type of sedation.

Is it Safe to Have Dental Sedation?

Generally, yes, dental sedation is completely safe, however, there are some instances where it should not be used.

  • Children – Dental sedation should be avoided as much as possible for children. Because they are still growing, children are more prone to associated risks such as developing heart problems or developmental issues. Laughing gas, however, is one of the safest sedatives for children.
  • Unhealthy People – Medical issues such as heart disease or a stroke could cause negative complications if anesthesia is used on you, furthering your problems.
  • Pregnancy – Are you expecting a child? Pregnant women should steer clear of having any sort of anesthesia since it could cause birthing complications.
  • Consumed Alcohol Before the Anesthesia – Even if you just had a small glass of wine before a dental procedure including anesthesia, you are at risk of problems occurring. Alcohol can cause your blood pressure to lower to a dangerous level when mixed with anesthesia. It might even cause the anesthetic to not work. So, if someone offers you a glass of wine before you visit the dentist for an anesthetic procedure, just say no.

Dental sedation will always be given by trained dentists with the proper accreditations, so you are in safe hands. Ask your dentist about sedation and if it is the right choice for you.

Sedation = Relief

When you visit us at Glenbrook Dental you can be sure we will only offer sedation dentistry if the situation calls for it. It can help to calm you down and is safely given to many patients regularly.