Sedation Dentistry: What Types of Sedation do Dentists Use?

As a dental practice with many years of experience, we know that there are still patients who have a fear–sometimes an extreme fear–of the dentist. This fear can cause patients to avoid even routine teeth cleaning exams or procedures, which can lead to much bigger problems down the road.

Fortunately, sedation dentistry solutions have come a long way in the last few decades. In fact, nearly every dental practice offers at least one type of dental sedation for their patients, which contributes to patient comfort and peace of mind at the dentist.

what types of sedation do dentists use

Sedation Dentistry Options: What Types of Sedation do Dentists Use? 

There are several different types of sedation that dental practices use. Many practices only offer oral sedatives or nitrous oxide. They may do this for several reasons, including having a patient base who does not require a deeper form of sedation, or working in an office that cannot accommodate deeper sedation.

Either way, most dental offices likely have a type of sedation that will work for you, and a few will specialize in sedation dentistry for their patients. Types of dental sedation will range from:

  • minimal sedation (you are awake, but feel relaxed, with little to no anxiety)
  • moderate sedation (you are awake, but deeply relaxed and you may not remember the procedure later)
  • deep sedation (you are on the edge of consciousness or lightly asleep, but can be easily awakened)
  • general anesthesia (you are completely unconscious)

Here are the types of sedation dentists use.

Inhaled sedation

This is the type of sedation most people are familiar with. “Laughing gas” or nitrous oxide is inhaled through a mask placed over the nose. You will not lose consciousness or go to sleep…you will simply feel much more relaxed throughout the procedure. Nitrous oxide is quite safe, and the dentist is able to adjust the amount of gas you receive throughout the procedure.

Plus, since it is a gas, most patients recover very quickly after the gas is removed and some may even be able to drive themselves home after an appointment. If you feel like you might want a relaxant at your next dental appointment, nitrous oxide is a good place to start. It’s safe and effective and most dental offices have it readily available for their patients (though it’s typically an additional charge to your appointment).

Oral sedation

Oral sedation ranges from minimal to moderate sedation, depending on how much medicine is prescribed before the appointment. Most dental offices will prescribe one or two pills to be taken an hour or so before your appointment. The pills are usually Valium or a similar oral sedative and will make you very drowsy. Some patients might even fall lightly asleep during their appointment, though they will be easy to wake with a shake.

Since an oral sedative causes drowsiness, patients who choose this method of sedation should always arrange transportation to and from the dental office. They may even want a friend, family member or caretaker on hand for a few hours to make sure they make it safely home into bed for a nice nap.

IV sedation

Less common in general dentistry offices, and more common in practices that specialize in dental sedation is IV sedation. IV sedation will cause deep sedation, so the patient receiving this type of dental sedation will be on the edge of consciousness or lightly asleep.

One advantage of IV sedation is that it’s delivered intravenously right into the bloodstream. Patients receive this sedation once they’re in the dental chair and it works very quickly. Plus, the dentist is able to adjust the amount of sedation throughout the appointment, as needed.

Patients choosing this type of sedation will need help getting home and should not drive immediately after their appointment. Though the effects may not last as long as an oral sedative, the medicine from an IV sedative will stay in the bloodstream for a few hours, so patients should plan accordingly.

General anesthesia

This type of dental sedation will cause the patient to be unconscious throughout the procedure. Patients cannot be woken easily while the medicine is in effect. They will likely need another medicine to wake them, or will need several hours for the anesthesia to wear off.

This type of sedation is usually only offered by dental sedation specialists and is reserved for patients with extreme dental anxiety, who are resistant to other sedatives or who require extensive oral surgery. This type of sedation also requires an anesthesiologist and nurse to monitor vital signs during the procedure.

Sedation Dentistry Options at Capstone Dental in Clintonville

We offer several types of dental sedation at our dental office in Clintonville. The types of sedation dentistry that we offer are inhaled sedation (nitrous oxide) as well as oral sedation (a pill or two before an appointment). We do not offer IV sedation or general anesthesia at our Clintonville dental office.

If you are feeling anxious about your dental visit, talk to us at your next appointment and we will help determine if a dental sedative is right for you. Most patients do well with an inhaled or oral sedative, both of which most general dentistry practices offer their patients.

What can I do if I feel anxious but don’t want a sedative? 

For mild to moderate procedures (tooth fillings, root canal treatment or other routine dental work), many patients get by without a sedative, especially once the area is numbed. If you’re feeling anxious or tend to be nervous during your dental appointments, here are some tactics you can try to help relax without a sedative:

Try headphones

Play your favorite relaxing music to help you stay calm, or even watch TV while your dental team works. The bonus of this anxiety-reducing tactic is that it also helps drown out the noise of dental instruments.

Use a blanket

Some dental offices will provide warm blankets for the patients, but you can also ask to bring a favorite from home. Soft, warm material can help to ease nerves.

Avoid caffeine

The morning or day of your appointment, avoid caffeine. Not only will caffeine make you feel more jittery, it can also make it harder for local anesthetic to take effect.

Low stress appointment times

This is different for every patient, so choose a time and day for your appointment that is as low stress for you as possible. For example, if you find you feel anxious and rushed during your lunch hour, ask your dentist if they have early morning appointments instead.

Ask for a consultation

If you’re worried about an unfamiliar procedure, ask if you may have a separate consultation appointment first. The dentist can explain the procedure in more depth to you so you can understand what’s happening and quiet your mind during the procedure.

Most of all, ease your anxiety by keeping up with your regular, twice yearly teeth cleaning exams. The more familiar you are with the office, the staff and the doctor, the less nervous you will be. Plus, the more the practice can know and understand your personality, level of anxiety and treatment needs, the better than can serve you every time you walk in the door.

Remember: The above information is to be used as general guidelines and you should not use this information to diagnose yourself. If you are concerned about your teeth, you should contact our Clintonville, Ohio dentists for a thorough dental exam.

Sedation Dentistry in Columbus Ohio

We are proud to offer professional dentistry, teeth cleaning exams and tooth fillings to our patients in Central Ohio. Our patients have benefitted from our inhaled dental sedation and oral dental sedation to ease their anxiety during appointments and dental procedures. Contact us today to learn more!