Sedation Dentistry: A New Remedy for Anxiety

Dental Health
By: Spirit Dental
August 22, 2017

Woman laying in dentist's chair

It’s totally normal to feel anxious when you need to see the dentist. In fact, anxiety in the dentist’s chair is so common that experts have come up with a solution that may be just what you need to feel more at ease, and it’s referred to as sedation dentistry.

Below is some information on what sedation dentistry is and who it’s designed for. Perhaps you could benefit from it too!

Wanna Be Sedated?

Sedation dentistry is also known as “sleep dentistry” because patients are given medications that are designed to put them into a deep state of relaxation. Although patients typically won’t be totally asleep (unless they’re given general anesthesia) and they’ll be able to respond to commands and questions from the dentist, they probably won’t remember the experience.

Your level of sedation is also an option, so you and your dentist can decide which would be best for you. Minimal sedation will keep you awake but you will feel relaxed, while moderate sedation might cause you to slur your words and forget the majority of what happened in the dental chair. Deep sedation means you would be slightly conscious, while general anesthesia would put you into a totally unconscious state.

It’s important to note that sedation doesn’t negate the need for a local anesthetic that will numb the area of your mouth that the dentist will be working on. Those who have a phobia of needles and shots, however, can rest assured that, under sedation, they likely won’t even remember getting the shots in the first place. Phew!

What Is Used to Sedate You?

Your dentist has a few tools available to help you relax during your procedure:

  • For minimal sedation, you might be given nitrous oxide, AKA “laughing gas,” to breathe in. This will combine with oxygen and will be delivered to your nose via a mask so that you can relax as your dentist controls the level of sedation.
  • Oral sedation has become a popular option because, depending upon how much medication you take, you can be anywhere from minimally to moderately sedated. You might be given a sedative pill like Halcion to take an hour before your appointment in order to become relaxed and drowsy. If your dentist thinks that you might need more, he may give you another dose.
  • Your dentist can also provide you with a moderate level of sedation through an IV. As the sedative moves into your vein, it’ll get to work quickly, but your dentist will still be able to adjust the amount of sedation that you’re under.
  • For those who get the most anxious at the dentist, or for those receiving intense treatments, general anesthesia will provide deep sedation that can leave you completely asleep throughout the procedure.

Who Are the Best Candidates for Sedation Dentistry?

Ask yourself these questions to help determine if sedation dentistry would be a good option for you:

  1. Do you tremble in fear at the thought of visiting the dentist, especially to undergo a procedure like a filling or a root canal?
  2. Have you avoided going to the dentist, and maybe even postponed your appointment, even though your teeth and gums have needed treatment?
  3. Do you have a low tolerance for pain, a strong gag reflex, or really sensitive teeth?
  4. Do you find it really difficult to sit still while you’re in the dentist’s chair?
  5. In the past, have you had a hard time getting numb even after your dentist administered a local anesthetic?

Stick with a Dentist Experienced in Sedation

Sedation dentistry may come with risks that experts recommend discussing with your dentist. They also recommend only opting for sedation from a dentist who has plenty of experience in this area—especially if you’re going to receive oral sedatives, as your dentist will need to know how much to give you while avoiding an overdose.

A trip to the dentist isn’t most people’s idea of a good time. If you get super nervous about dental cleanings, checkups, and treatments, talk to your dentist to find out if he or she provides sedation dentistry. It could be just what you need to overcome your fear and receive the care that your teeth and gums need to stay healthy.


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