Dental Sedation: A Primer For Patients

Going to the dentist is rarely a pleasant experience, but some people have a more difficult time in the dentist's chair than others. For these particular patients, dentists will often provide some form sedation to help the patient relax and feel comfortable. This article offers dental patients a brief guide to this important topic.

Reason for Use

Many people have increased anxiety when they go to the dentist. This anxiety may, in some cases, interfere with the treatment because the patient is constantly squirming and fidgeting, which makes it more difficult for the dentist to do their job. Some people, however, have a problem that is more specific than just general anxiety. These patients have a fear of sharp instruments, such as needles and dental drills, so sedation is almost essential for them to get through any dental procedure. Also, patients who have behavioral issues, such as younger children who have a hard time sitting still, are candidates for sedation dentistry.


Dentists use different types of sedation techniques, most of which do not involve putting the patient to sleep. In most instances, the patent remains conscious but is in a much more relaxed and calm state of mind than normal.

Perhaps the most well-known sedation method is the use of nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas. This technique involves having a small mask put over your nose and the gas pumped into the mask. As you breathe in the nitrous oxide, you become less aware of your surroundings and more mentally relaxed.

Your dentist might recommend an oral sedative rather than the nitrous oxide. This method simply requires you to swallow a pill that will have a sedating effect. The exact pill used for this method can vary, with Valium being very common. One advantage of oral sedation over other methods is its simplicity; all the patient has to do is take a pill.

Another, more intrusive type of dental sedation is the injecting of intravenous drugs into the patient's bloodstream. In some cases, the drugs used for this method will keep the patient conscious throughout the treatment. In other circumstances, the patient might be brought to a state of unconsciousness. Typically, rendering a patient unconscious is done only in specific situations, such as when a patient has extreme anxiety or an intellectual disorder that makes it impossible for them to be calmed by other methods.

To learn more or to find out if sedation dentistry is right for you, talk with your dentist.