What is Sedation Dentistry? A Complete Guide

Do you feel nervous or fearful before your visit to the dentist? Do you try to bear a toothache to avoid dental procedure and visits? If your answer to these questions is yes, then sedation dentistry is the solution for your fear.

Sedation dentistry works to reduce your anxiety, fear, and nervousness to deliver the painless and comfortable treatment. Sedation dentistry makes your dental experience pleasant with its various techniques such as general sedation, oral sedation, nitrous oxide sedation, etc.


If you have a low pain threshold, negative past dental experience, hypersensitivity, etc. then you might think of dental sedation. Let’s get to know more about sedation dentistry through this article.

What is sedation dentistry?

Sedation dentistry is a dental practice in which sedatives are used to give to establish a calm and relaxed state of the patient. Various forms of sedatives drugs, which include anti-anxiety, anti-depressants, tranquilizers, etc., induces sleep. (1)

The route of administration of sedatives decides the level of sedation and patients responsiveness. Usually, Patients are conscious and can respond to verbal instructions. Only in case of general anesthesia patients remains unconscious.

Dental sedation is not about pain management technique or anesthesia. It is performed before the procedure to make you feel calm even though you are awake. So that, you can conquer the threat in you and receive the treatment.

Though the sedative increases your pain threshold, you may also require local anesthesia in more intensive dental procedures.

How does sedation dentistry work?

The success rate of used sedation has a lot to do with patients action.  A patient should follow the instructions given by the dentist.

In the case of oral sedation prescribed medication should be taken as instructed by the dentist. You should prepare yourself in advance for sedation.

If you are taking nitrous oxide sedation, all the responsibility lies with your dentist. You have to sit in relax position and inhale the sedative drug supplied by your dentist throughout the procedure.

However, if you are the patient for IV sedation, your dentist might ask you not to drink or eat anything several hours before sedation. You may also be asked to stop avoid specific medication.

Is sedation dentistry right for you?

Dental sedation is given only in case of specific dental procedures such as root canal treatment, extraction, surgical procedures, etc.

Regular dental visits and primary procedure like scaling, x-ray, etc. are performed without sedation. Not everyone needs sedation before dental treatment. Sedation dentistry applies to those who –

  • Gets anxious before the dental visit.
  • Have phobia related to dental visits?
  • Have a bad experience of dental work in the past. (2)
  • Have less pain threshold.
  • Have hypersensitivity.
  • Require a lot of dental work.
  • Have resistance to a local anesthetic.

Benefits of sedation dentistry

Common benefits noticed in a patient receiving sedation are –

  • No anxiety and fear during treatment.
  • No sense of smell and sound.
  • Ability to sit in a dental chair for a longer time.
  • No memory of undergoing the procedure.
  • The cooperative behavior for the treatment. Patient allows the dentist to perform procedure calmly.
  • At times, it reduces the total number of dental visits.

Side effects of sedation dentistry

The various side effect of sedation is noticed based on the sedation technique used. But the most common side effects seen with sedation are –

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • A headache.
  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy.
  • Dry mouth.

The severe side effects associated with sedation are best avoided by sharing your medical history with your dentist. Give a complete medical history including medication you are taking to your dentist when he asks about it.

The medical condition has a lot to do with sedative procedure. Also, the medication may some time react with sedative drugs.

Types of sedation

Talk to your dentist about your fear and anxiety; your dentist will plan the type of sedation in this case. Various kinds of sedation techniques are available such as –

Nitrous-oxide sedation

Nitrous-oxide sedation also termed as laughing gas is one of the safest methods of sedation. In this, the nitrous oxide gas is mixed with oxygen and is inhaled by the patient through the mask.

Effect of sedation will start to nullify once the mask removed. A patient will be in a conscious state with the feel of light headed and tingling sensation in legs and arms. (3)

General sedation

General sedation is sleep dentistry where the patient loses his consciousness. This sedation requires full hospital set up and accompanied caretaker.

Loss of consciousness may cause the inability of the patient to breath on his own and loss of reflexes. The patient is unable to respond to verbal and physical stimulation.

This type of sedation is rarely practiced and used in case of major surgical procedures only.

Oral sedation

Oral sedation is the simplest way of sedation. You need to take the prescribed drugs before and soon after arriving at a dentist. The sedative drugs used in oral sedation will make you forget about the unpleasant past dental experience. (4)

Intravenous sedation

In intravenous sedation, the sedative drug administered in the vein through the needle. The sedation effect starts immediately, and the impact may linger hours after the procedure.


Do not visit a dentist alone for the sedative procedure. Always accompany with family member or friend as you will feel tired for a few hours even after the procedure. Hence, you need a caretaker to drive you home after the treatment. (5)

Final words

Sedation dentistry is the best solution for your fear and dental phobia so that you can receive the required treatment without anxiety.

It is better to ask your dentist for sedation rather that avoiding treatment. Sedation dentistry is appropriate to step to make your dental visit safe and comfortable and to help you keep a healthy smile.


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