Conscious Sedation: A Guide To Sedation Dentistry


06 October 2021

Conscious Sedation: A Guide To Sedation Dentistry

About 36% of the population has dental anxiety. Another 12% suffer from extreme dental fear. If you're avoiding dentist appointments, however, it can have a major impact on your health.

You could develop cavities, gum disease, or other dental health issues. Not many people realize their oral health can lead to other conditions like diabetes, stroke, and heart disease, too.

Don't skip your dentist appointments. Instead, consider sedation dentistry.

With sedation services, you can sit back in the dentist's chair, feeling relaxed despite your anxiety.

What is dental sedation, anxiety? Keep reading to find out!

After reading this guide, you could find a solution to your dentophobia. Read on to learn more.

What is Sedation Dentistry?

First, let's answer the question that likely brought you where: what is sedation dentistry?

Many patients tense up at the very thought of having their teeth cleaned. Some patients would even endure a toothache or inflammation instead of scheduling an appointment. Without treatment, however, you could develop complications.

Sedation dentistry could ease your anxiety. It's used for a range of invasive procedures as well as routine cleanings.

Sedation involves using medication to keep you relaxed during a dental procedure. It's also called "sleep dentistry." That name isn't entirely accurate, though.

During an appointment, you'll usually remain awake unless you're under general anesthesia. It depends on the level of sedation used.

Different levels of sedation include:

  • Minimal sedation, where you're awake yet relaxed
  • Moderate or "conscious" sedation
  • Deep sedation
  • General anesthesia

With conscious sedation, you might slur your words as you speak. You won't recall most of the procedure, though.

With deep sedation, you'll remain on the edge of consciousness. You can still wake up despite the sedation, though. With general anesthesia, however, you'll remain completely unconscious.

The type of sedation used can vary based on your level of anxiety.

Types of Sedation

Before scheduling your next dental appointment, ask the office about the sedation dentistry services they have available. 

For example, they might suggest inhaled minimal sedation. With this type of sedation, you'll breathe in nitrous oxide (also called laughing caused) and oxygen. The gas will help you relax.

Your dentist will control how much you receive. The gas usually wears off quickly. Minimal sedation is the only type where you can drive yourself home afterward.

Oral sedation can range between minimal and moderate. With this type of sedation, you'll consume a pill like Halcion. You'll need to take the pill about an hour before the procedure.

Oral sedation can make you feel drowsy, though you'll remain awake for the procedure. If necessary, you can take a larger dose for moderate sedation. Oral sedation is commonly associated with sedation dentistry.

The third type is IV moderate sedation.

You'll receive a sedative drug through your vein, ensuring it works quickly. Your dentist can continually adjust the level of sedation as needed.

The final type of sedation dentistry is deep sedation or general anesthesia. You'll receive medication that can either make you almost or totally unconscious. You'll remain asleep throughout the procedure.

While under general anesthesia, it's difficult to wake up on your own. Your dentist might reverse the effects with medication. 

You might require a local anesthetic to relieve pain during the procedure as well.

Talk to your dentist's office to explore your options. 


Ideal Patients

Sedation dentistry is ideal for patients that have a serious fear or anxiety about visiting the dentist. In fact, about 22% of people skip appointments due to a fear of the dentist.

However, it's sometimes suggested for patients who have:

  • Very sensitive teeth
  • A bad gag reflex
  • A low pain threshold
  • An inability to sit still in the dentist's chair

It's also ideal for patients who need to have a large amount of dental work completed during an appointment.

Sometimes, dentists will suggest sedation if a child is terrified of going to the dentist. It can help keep the child relaxed if they refuse to cooperate during an appointment.

Nitrous oxide is safe for children. However, only a small percent of pediatric dentists are trained to give children oral sedation. The amount used varies based on the child's weight and age. 

Before requesting sedation dentistry services, learn more about your dentist. Find a dentist that's completed the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). They'll have additional training in deep sedation and general anesthesia.

The state's dental board regulates the use of sedation products. Make sure your dentist holds the necessary permits to perform sedation services. 


There's always some amount of risk associated with getting anesthesia. However, it's usually safe. Make sure to choose an experienced, qualified dentist before your appointment.

There are some patients who should talk to their doctor before having sedation. If you have obstructive sleep apnea or are obese, schedule a consultation appointment. Otherwise, the anesthesia might cause complications. 

Before the procedure, take the time to review your medical history with the dentist. Ask your dentist if you're an ideal candidate.

Discuss any medications you're currently taking, too.

You can also ask your dentist about the dose that's appropriate for your health and age.

During your consultation appointment, you can also ask the dentist about their training and credentials. Review any potential side effects you'll need to watch out for, too.

Ask questions if you're unclear about anything your dentist discusses during your consultation appointment. Finding answers can help you feel more relaxed before the procedure. 

Finding a trained, qualified dentist will give you peace of mind.

Sedation Dentistry: Your Solution for Easing Dental Anxiety

Don't let your anxiety keep you from scheduling your next dental cleaning or procedure. Instead, talk to your dentist about sedation dentistry. Sedation can keep you calm and relaxed throughout the appointment.

You can prioritize your oral health this year without letting dentophobia get the best of you. 

Want to discuss your treatment options with a team you can trust? We're here for you.

Contact our team today to get started. 

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