Dental Sedation: What to Expect

Thanks to modern technology and amenities, dental work can be completely painless and comfortable during any appointment, no matter how serious the treatment. However, sometimes even the most routine dental visits cause many people a great deal of anxiety and stress.

Both nervousness and dental sensitivity prevent many patients from receiving the consistent care they need to maintain a healthy smile. Most dental teams go the extra mile to make patients feel safe and comfortable in the dental chair, but if you need a little extra comfort, there are several dental sedation methods available to guarantee a relaxing, stress-free dental care experience.

Before you opt for any sedation dentistry method at your next appointment, you might want to explore the sedative options available and discover what to expect before, during, and after your treatment.

Sedation Dentistry For More Comfortable Dental Visits

Dental sedatives are not always used in every appointment. They are often used at the request of patients who experience difficulty at the dentist or who want to relieve stress and discomfort during treatment.

Depending on your needs, dental sedation is a good option for patients who struggle with the following:

  • Dental or medical anxiety.
  • Increased tooth sensitivity.
  • A hyperactive gag reflex.
  • Insensitivity to local anesthetics.
  • Special behavioral or physical needs.
  • Fear of dental tools and procedures.

You can choose sedation that is moderate, or very extreme. In moderate cases, you will stay awake and aware, but will not experience any stress, pain, or anxiety during the procedure. With a heavier sedative, you might fall asleep or be put completely unconscious.

Types of Dental Sedation

The three primary types of sedation dentistry are laughing gas, oral sedation, and IV sedation. The method you use will depend on your dentist’s recommendation, your medical history, and your desired level of sedation. Each type has its benefits.

Laughing Gas

Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is a popular sedation method that works well for patients of any age. This minimal sedative is administered through a mask worn over your nose that delivers calming gas, a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen, to help you remain relaxed. Laughing gas is simple, wears off quickly, and can be increased or decreased by your dentist during the procedure.

Oral Sedation

Traditionally provided in pill form, oral sedation methods offer mild to moderate calming effects. Your dentist will give you a pill to take about an hour before your procedure. The medication will make you feel relaxed, calm, and maybe even sleepy.

This medication is generally in the same class as many anti-anxiety drugs, so it is not uncommon to become very groggy. It typically takes a few hours for these effects to wear off, so you will need someone else to drive you home from your appointment.

IV Sedation

Deeper sedation is often necessary for those who are undergoing serious procedures, are getting multiple procedures, or have acute dental anxiety. With IV sedation, your dentist will administer quick-acting sedating medications through an IV line typically placed in your arm to deliver them straight into your bloodstream.

Patients who receive IV sedation can fall asleep, but usually will be awake enough to respond to questions. The dentist can control the dosage during the procedure as needed. Like oral sedation, you cannot drive yourself home after your procedure.

Sedation Aftercare

After your appointment, you can go home and rest until the sedation medication wears off. Because you may feel hazy, disoriented, or fatigued, a trusted friend or family member should stick around to make sure you can continue to relax in a comfortable spot while recovering.

In most cases, you should feel back to normal within a few hours, but in rare situations, some patients experience nausea, irritability, and headaches. Fortunately, these uncommon side effects disappear in a short period—usually less than 24 hours.

With laughing gas, the effects wear off nearly immediately. With other methods, you can resume your normal activities at least one full day after your appointment. Your dentist will let you know if there are any foods, drinks, or activities you should avoid in recovery.

Dental Sedation at Smart Dental Care

Dental anxiety is common, but it shouldn’t get in the way of regular and important dental care. If dental sedation sounds right for you, contact our practice today to discuss our dental sedation options and find out which method is best for you and your next dental visit.