It is quite common for dental patients to be nervous or have anxiety about dental procedures. Oftentimes, if a patient does have worries about seeing the dentist, they can opt to try dental sedation. This is not part of pain management for a procedure, numbing agents and shot are used to control pain. Rather, dental sedation uses a variety of options to make patients more comfortable and ease tensions. Perhaps you are nervous about getting a shot to numb your mouth for a procedure, it is dental sedation that can calm you down enough to get the shot. Also, with certain parts of dental sedation, you may not remember receiving the procedure, even if you remain awake for it. There are several medications that can be used to help a dental patient relax. Some of these medicines help calm the nerves, some medicines control pain (but not all), and some medicines can put the patient in a deep sleep-like state. You and your dentist can discuss what medications are right for you. In the end, the type of procedure you are having, your anxiety levels about the procedure, and your overall health determine what kind of dental sedation will be used. Read further as we discuss the different kinds of sedation.
This is also referred to as “conscious sedation”. For oral sedation, the patient is prescribed a dose of sedative before a dental procedure. This type of sedation leaves you awake for the procedure but also significantly relaxes the patient. Most patients remember little to nothing from the appointment if they used oral sedation. Oral sedation may make the patient sleepy, but the effects will wear off after a day. This means that the patient will have to get a ride home from someone, as they will not be able to safely drive afterward. Dental patients with high levels of anxiety can benefit from oral sedation.
Laughing gas is used to help relax patients during dental appointments. The dentist will place an apparatus over the patient’s nose and have them breathe in. The patient is still conscious while breathing laughing gas. The effects of laughing gas are mild and it kicks in as soon as the patient begins to breathe it in. Some patients will only require laughing gas, some need oral sedation and laughing gas to ease their worries. Patients that only need laughing gas can drive themselves home after the procedure as it wears off fast, and does not compromise their reflexes.
There are two types of IV sedation available. Twilight IV sedation makes you sleepy and relaxed, but not very aware of your surroundings. Because of this, you may not remember the procedure when you wake up.
Then there is general anesthesia which is more uncommon than twilight IV sedation. If the patient needs oral surgery, then they will be given general anesthesia to control pain. This kind of medicine puts the patient to sleep for the whole surgery. This kind of sedation needs to happen in a hospital or specialized clinic so that a qualified anesthetist or anesthesiologist can administer the sedative and monitor the patient’s vital signs.