4 Types Of Sedation Dentistry and How They Help To Ease Dental Anxiety

What is Sedation Dentistry and What Types Are Available?

When you visited the dentist’s office last time, did you feel any unease or discomfort about the experience to come? For some people, a trip to the dentist’s office is just that—anxiety inducing, and one way for dentists to calm their patients’ nerves is sedation. Sedation dentists offer a variety of painless methods to reduce patients’ anxiety towards dental procedures.

Sedation dentistry uses medication to relax patients during a dental procedure. These methods range from minimal sedation to general anesthesia and come in many types. When your dentist offers you sedation, the medicine will come in one of four ways: inhaled minimal sedation, oral sedation, IV moderate sedation, and general anesthesia.

4 Types Of Sedation Dentistry and How They Help To Ease Dental Anxiety

1) Inhaled Minimal Sedation

This form of sedation involves patients inhaling a mixture of nitrous oxide, or so-called “laughing gas,” with oxygen through a mask to mildly sedate patients for minimally invasive procedures, This method is most helpful for typical visits to a dentist since patients can quickly recover from the sedation and drive home after the visit.

2) Oral Sedation

For moderate dental procedures, oral sedation may be used. Patients take a pill, usually Halcion, a pill which produces a calming effect in the brain and makes patients feel drowsy, yet still remain awake. The pill is taken about an hour before the procedure, and in most cases, patients will stay awake during the procedure. However, higher doses may cause a patient to fall into a light sleep.

3) IV Moderate Sedation

This sedation method is a step up from oral sedation and involves a patient receiving similar medications as with oral sedation but intravenously. There are two benefits to IV sedation over oral sedation. First, IV sedation goes to work more quickly than oral medication, so it can be taken at the office. Second, your dentist can monitor the level of sedation throughout the procedure and adjust accordingly.

4) General Anesthesia

General anesthesia is the most severe of the sedation methods and is usually saved for major dental procedures. An anesthesiologist will administer the necessary medications to the patient in order to make the patient fall into deep sleep. Afterwards, the patient will need to allow the medication to wear off or have the anesthesiologist administer counteractive medications to awake him or her.

Who Can Perform Sedation Methods?

The majority of dentists are trained to give mild sedation methods like inhaled and oral sedation, and some are even being trained to give IV moderate sedation. However, it is rare to find a general dentist who has been trained in deep sedation or anesthesiology. For these more serious procedures, dentists will usually call on the assistance of an oral surgeon or dentist anesthesiologist. For example, at Sedation Dental Center, a sedation dentist in San Diego, a board-certified dental anesthesiologist will monitor the IV sedation throughout the dental procedure.

How Safe is Sedation and How Effective is Sedation at Easing Anxiety?

Sedation is generally safe procedure across all of the described types above with minimal risk of complications. However, people who are obese or have obstructive sleep apnea should speak with their dentist prior to undergoing sedation as these people face a higher risk of complication from anesthesia. As for the effectiveness of sedation, it continues to work for those who have anxiety about going through a dental procedure.


The most important takeaway about sedation is to always speak your dentist and understand what your procedure before scheduling it. Your dentist should go through your health history and an explanation of the procedure prior to prescribing a sedation method. You should speak with your dentist about his or her training on sedation and ask questions about the specific sedation method prescribed for you.

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