Sedation Dentistry: What It Is, Types, and What to Expect 

Woman at 21st century dentistry gets nitrous oxide sedation dentistry

What is Sedation Dentistry? 

Sedation dentistry has become a popular option for people who are anxious about dental work. Sedation dentistry, also known as sleep dentistry, is a technique that is used to help patients relax and feel calm during their dental procedure. There are three types of sedation dentistry: intravenous (iv), oral, and nitrous oxide.  

Each type has its benefits and risks, so it’s important to talk to your dentist about which option is best for you. This article will focus on the two most common types of sedation dentistry: intravenous and oral. But first, let’s go over what you should expect before, during, and after your appointment. 

What to Expect Before Your Appointment 

Before your appointment, you’ll need to meet with your dentist for a consultation. This is to ensure that sedation dentistry is right for you and to discuss which type of sedation will be used. In most cases, you will need to fast for seven hours. This means that you cannot eat or drink anything except clear liquids.  

You’ll be asked about your medical history and any medications you’re taking. It is also essential to let your dentist know if you are pregnant.  You may also be required to avoid drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes for 24 hours before your appointment.  

Your dentist will then:  

  • Review your medical history to make sure you are a good candidate for sedation 
  • Perform a physical examination of your mouth 
  • Take X-rays or get other diagnostic tests 

What Happens During Sedation Dentistry? 

During your procedure, you will generally feel drowsy and relaxed. Depending on your individual needs, your sedation medications may be administered by a dentist, CRNA, or anesthesiologist. One of the primary goals of sedation dentistry is to provide you with a positive experience, and utilizing safe protocols is an important aspect of that. Your vital signs will be closely monitored throughout the entire procedure utilizing various methods and equipment.

Depending on the type of sedation used, you may not be able to remember much of the procedure afterward. For this reason, having someone else drive you to and from your appointment is essential.  

What to Expect and Do Following the Procedure 

After your procedure, no matter which type of sedation you choose, you should expect to feel drowsy for a few hours after the procedure. You’ll need to rest until the effects of the sedation sufficiently wear off. You should also avoid drinking alcohol or operating heavy machinery for the next 24 hours after the procedure. Most people are able to return to their normal activities the next day.  

Types of Sedation Dentistry 

As mentioned earlier, there are three main types of sedation dentistry: IV sedation, oral sedation, and nitrous oxide.  

  1. IV sedation is the most common type of sedation used in dentistry. It involves injecting the medication directly into your bloodstream, typically through a vein in the arm. One advantage of IV sedation is that the dentist can more easily control the effects, making this type of sedation ideal for more anxious patients in need of extensive dental treatment. 
  2. Oral sedation involves taking a pill by mouth before your appointment. Many dentists use a pill called triazolam (Halcion). The medication will make you feel drowsy and relaxed, and the amount of sedation you’ll experience will depend on the type and dose of medication used. This type of sedation is generally used for moderately anxious patients, as the effects are less easily controlled than when the medication is administered through IV. 
  3. Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is another option for sedation dentistry. It is a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen that is inhaled through a mask. Nitrous oxide will usually make you feel relaxed and somewhat drowsy, which is beneficial for anyone anxious about dental treatment. The effects wear off quickly after inhaling oxygen for a few minutes, making nitrous oxide the only method of sedation that does not require someone else to transport you to and from your appointment.

Benefits of Sedation Dentistry 

Sedation dentistry can help make dental procedures more comfortable for patients who experience anxiety or fear. It can also be used for patients who have a sensitive gag reflex or who need to have a lengthy procedure done. It’s important to talk to your dentist about all of your options so that you can choose the best one for you. 

Who Would Benefit from Sedation Dentistry? 

Patients who have the following conditions may benefit from sedation dentistry:  

  • Dental anxiety or fear of needles 
  • Sensitive teeth 
  • Gag reflex that interferes with dental procedures 
  • Difficulty getting numb 
  • A complex dental procedure 
  • Arthritis or other joint problems that make it challenging to sit still for long periods 

Is Sedation Dentistry an Option for My Child? 

Yes. If your child is anxious, sedation can help them relax during dental treatment. Each child reacts differently to treatment, so it is recommended to consult with your dentist to determine what sedation option may be best.

Is it Safe to Receive Sedation Dentistry When Pregnant? 

Sedation dentistry is generally not recommended for pregnant women because little is known about how it affects the developing baby. If you absolutely need to have a dental procedure while pregnant, most medical professionals recommend doing so during the second trimester.

Risks of Sedation Dentistry 

All types of sedation have some risks, but careful patient assessment and safe sedation protocols make the risks minimal. Some of the more common risks associated with sedation dentistry include:  

  • Drowsiness 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Allergic reactions 
  • Slow heart rate 
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Respiratory depression  

The Bottom Line 

Sedation dentistry can be an excellent option for people who are anxious about dental work, have a lot of dental work to get done, or for those who find traditional dentistry procedures uncomfortable. Our team at 21st Century Dentistry want you to feel confident that you’re making the best decision for your oral health.

If you’re interested in learning more about sedation dentistry or would like to schedule an appointment, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We look forward to hearing from you! 

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