What is Sedation Dentistry: Overview, Benefits, and Expected Results

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What is Sedation Dentistry: Overview, Benefits, ‍and ‌Expected Results

It’s estimated that around 40 million Americans avoid the dentist for fear of pain or discomfort. For ⁢patients who struggle with dental anxiety, traditional ‍dental procedures can be​ difficult and even traumatic. Fortunately, sedation dentistry provides a safe and ⁢reliable⁢ solution.

What is⁢ Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation​ dentistry is a method of dental care which uses drugs to ease dental anxiety ‍and discomfort. These drugs can‌ be administered either intravenously (IV) or ​orally. During sedation dentistry, patients are consciously aware but are not ⁤conscious.

Benefits of Sedation Dentistry​

Sedation dentistry ⁣has many benefits for patients⁤ who experience dental anxiety. Some of these benefits include:

1. Reduced Stress and ‍Anxiety‌

One of the main benefits of ⁢sedation dentistry is⁤ that it reduces stress and‍ anxiety. By leveraging a range of ​sedative medications, dentists⁣ can make patients feel more relaxed and less anxious during dental procedures. This reduces the time needed for treatment, as patients are less likely to​ be tense or apprehensive during the procedure.

2. Minimal Pain and Discomfort

Sedation dentistry also helps to minimize pain and discomfort. By using sedation along with numbing agents, dentists can make sure that patients experience minimal pain and discomfort during dental procedures.

3. ⁤Improved‍ Dental Hygiene

Sedation dentistry also contributes to improved dental ⁣hygiene. For patients who suffer from severe anxiety, regular dental ‌care is⁢ often difficult and⁢ even⁣ impossible. ⁤Sedation dentistry enables these patients to undergo dental procedures and maintain their oral health.

4. Reduced Treatment Time

Sedation dentistry​ also reduces the ‌time needed for certain dental procedures. By‍ eliminating the ‍fear and apprehension that some patients experience, dentists can quickly and⁤ efficiently ⁤perform⁢ the necessary procedures. This can reduce the overall⁢ cost of treatment as well.

Types of Sedation Dentistry

There are several different types ​of sedation dentistry available. Each type has its own advantages and ‍disadvantages. It’s important to speak with a​ dentist and‌ discuss which type of sedation⁤ is best for you.

1. Oral Sedation

Oral⁤ sedation is ⁣one ⁤of the most common forms of sedation ⁣dentistry. Oral ⁢sedation involves taking ⁣a sedative medication orally, usually a pill or liquid. This type of sedation is safe and effective, although it ​can ​take up to an‌ hour to take effect.

2. Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide, also known as “laughing gas”,‍ is another form of sedation ⁣dentistry. Nitrous oxide is administered via a mask and works quickly. This type of sedation is ideal for patients who only need mild sedation.

3. Intravenous (IV) Sedation

IV sedation is the strongest type ​of sedation dentistry. During this⁢ procedure,‍ a sedative medication⁣ is⁢ injected directly into the bloodstream.‍ This type of sedation works⁤ quickly and can be adjusted depending on the patient’s level of anxiety or discomfort.

4. General Anesthesia

General⁢ anesthesia is the strongest type⁢ of sedation dentistry available. During general anesthesia, patients are completely unconscious and unable to feel any pain or discomfort. This type of⁢ sedation is typically only used for complex ⁣or lengthy dental ‍procedures.

Expected⁢ Results

The ⁢results of sedation dentistry vary from patient⁤ to ⁢patient. Generally,⁢ patients experience reduced ‍anxiety and discomfort ⁣during dental procedures. This can ​make the⁤ procedure quicker and easier for both patient and dentist. In some cases, patients ‍may even enter ‌a “twilight sleep” during​ which they are conscious but unaware of their surroundings.

Patients should discuss their expectations with their dentist before undergoing sedation dentistry. It’s important to ⁣note that all types of sedation dentistry come with risks, including allergic‌ reactions, nausea, and breathing complications. ⁣Patients should also ⁣understand that they may feel drowsy after the procedure and‌ should arrange for someone to drive them home.


Sedation dentistry can help to ‍reduce anxiety and discomfort during ‌dental ‌procedures. It’s important to understand the different types ⁣of sedation ‍available and⁤ discuss their expectations with their dentist before undergoing sedation. With the proper‌ precautions, sedation⁣ dentistry‍ can help‍ to make dental⁢ procedures easier and less stressful for patients with dental⁤ anxiety.

Definition and Overview

Sedation dentistry refers to the administration of sedatives such as general anesthesia to calm and relax the patient during certain dental procedures. It is sometimes called sleep dentistry, although patients don’t always “sleep” during the entire procedure. Rather, the sedative induces the patient to a very relaxed state without affecting the person’s ability to hear and follow commands.

Today, there are many ways to sedate a patient. These include conscious sedation, wherein the patient is wide awake but most likely won’t be able to recall anything about the procedure. Light sedation, on the other hand, is ideal for patients who simply need to be relaxed.

For complex oral surgeries, general anesthesia may have to be administered as the procedure may take a long time to complete.

Sedatives can also come in many forms. More dentists are veering away from using the IV (or needle) since it may only worsen the dental anxiety of the patient. Rather, they use gas (such as nitrous oxide or laughing gas) and, more recently, oral sedation.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

One of the most common reasons why sedation is administered is dental anxiety or phobia. It’s estimated that at least 30% of the U.S. population, especially children, don’t want to go to the dentist due to anxiety or fear. This may only prevent them from getting the needed oral care, which may then affect their overall health.

It may also be necessary when the procedure is going to be long such as root canal therapy, multiple tooth extractions, and dental implant installation. Keeping one’s mouth wide open for long periods can be distressing, so sedation can be used to relax the patient.

Some people may also have trouble controlling their movements. This is especially true with facial nerve damage and Parkinson’s disease. The sedative can help minimize tremors that can affect the procedure.

Administering the sedative is quick and efficient. It takes less than a few minutes to complete, although the dentist may have to wait until the full effects of the sedative are seen. Usually, the procedure is outpatient, but the patient may be asked to stay for a while until all the effects have worn off. The patient may also have a friend or a relative drive him home after the dental procedure.

How Does the Procedure Work?

First, the dentist discusses with the patient the best form of sedation. Many factors are considered including the patient’s level of anxiety and the procedure. Once the exact type is chosen, the rest of the procedure is planned.

Normally, there’s no special preparation needed other than to inform the dentist if you’re allergic to the sedative itself or you’re taking medications that can cause an adverse reaction later. It’s essential that people with a heart problem inform the doctor beforehand.

The patient is then led to the dental chair, where he sits as comfortably as possible. The sedative is then provided, and the patient is given enough time for it to work. Once ready, the actual procedure commences.

The anesthesiologist must be around at all times to monitor the patient.

Possible Risks and Complications

As long as sedation is carried out by a well-trained, experienced, and certified dental professional, the process is completely safe.


  • Sherwood ER, Williams CG, Prough DS. Anesthesiology principles, pain management, and conscious sedation. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 16.

  • Vuyk J, Sitsen E, Reekers M. Intravenous anesthetics. In: Miller RD, ed. Miller’s Anesthesia. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 30.


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