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Sedation in Dentistry

You do not feel pain with sedation dentistry. It's sometimes referred to as "sleep dentistry," although that's not entirely accurate. Dentists use a combination of sedation and anaesthetic to keep you relaxed and pain-free throughout your procedure. Many patients leave the appointment with little to no memory of their treatment and feel good afterwards. 

The most common types of sedation dentistry include nitrous oxide, oral conscious sedation and intravenous (IV) sedation.

Oral sedation will suppress the gag reflex, suppress pain responses, reduce anxiety, and more. However, these dental sedation methods usually last anywhere from two to eight hours after the procedure. The type of drug you take will determine how long it will take for the sedation to wear off.


Who needs sedation dentistry?

People of all ages can benefit from sedation dentistry, including children. Dentists often recommend this option for those with:

  • Dental anxiety.

  • A fear of visiting the dentist.

  • An overly sensitive gag reflex.

  • A fear of needles (aichmophobia).

  • Extreme teeth sensitivity.

  • Feelings of claustrophobia while in the dental chair.

  • Decreased sensitivity to local anaesthesia.

  • Difficulty controlling movements.

  • Special needs (including physical, cognitive or behavioural).


Nitrous oxide

Nitrous oxide is commonly known as “laughing gas.” You inhale nitrous oxide through a mask or nosepiece, and calming effects begin within three to five minutes. Your dentist controls the amount of sedation you receive and adjusts dosages accordingly throughout your procedure. Once your treatment is over, your dentist gives you pure oxygen to flush the nitrous oxide out of your system. Because the laughing gas leaves your system so quickly, you’ll be able to drive yourself home after the procedure.

Oral conscious sedation

With oral conscious sedation, your dentist gives you sedative medication (usually in pill form) about an hour before your procedure begins. Most dentists use triazolam (Halcion®), which is in the diazepam (Valium®) family. But your dentist might use other medications, too, including zaleplon and lorazepam. Dentists often used liquid sedation in pediatric dentistry, such as midazolam oral syrup.

Oral sedation makes you quite groggy, and you may even fall asleep. But you’ll still be able to communicate with your dentist if necessary, and you’ll awaken with a gentle nudge. Because oral sedation temporarily affects your memory and motor skills, you’ll need a friend or family member to drive you home after your procedure.

Intravenous (IV) sedation

IV sedation dentistry is the deepest form of conscious sedation available in a dental office setting. Your healthcare provider delivers sedative medications directly to your bloodstream through an IV line. During your procedure, your dentist monitors your heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels. They can adjust your dosage at any point and can use reversal medications if necessary. Most people who receive IV sedation dentistry fall asleep and have little to no memory of their treatment when they wake up. This option is best for people with severe dental anxiety or those who are undergoing lengthy procedures.

How you can prepare for IV/Oral Sedation:


  1. You should not have ANYTHING to eat or drink after midnight, the night before your surgery. This includes water. If you take regular medications, you may take them as usual with a small sip of water. After your surgery procedure, you may eat at any time.

  2. Come to the Dental office with a responsible adult, who will take you home after your surgery.

  3. If you wear contacts, remove them before you come to the hospital.

  4. If you have dentures, a partial plate or removable bridgework and you must wear it the day of your surgery, please bring a container to store it in during your surgery.

What are the risks or complications of sedation dentistry?

Sedation dentistry is typically safe when administered by a licensed healthcare provider. However, there’s a small risk of complications. Possible short-term risks include:

  • Lingering drowsiness.

  • Can be difficult to predict the effect of oral sedation medications.

  • Dry mouth (Xerostomia)

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • Headaches

  • Bruising from the IV.

It can also be difficult to predict the effect of oral sedation medications. Rarely, people may have an allergic reaction. There are drugs available that can counteract these issues.

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