Dental Sedation Options

Dental sedation can come in many forms including a local anesthetic that numbs specific areas and a wide range of medications used to relax you during a procedure. These drugs can be taken orally or injected intravenously.


Using dental sedation can be dangerous so make sure you have a responsible driver to take you to and from your appointment. Make sure you share all medical history and current medications with your dentist before receiving sedation.

Nitrous oxide

Nitrous oxide is an inhaled minimal sedation option, also known as “laughing gas.” This safe, non-toxic gas is mixed with oxygen and delivered through a small mask over the nose. Patients feel calm and relaxed in as little as 30 seconds. It wears off almost immediately after the mask is removed, so patients can drive themselves home after their appointment.

This sedation option is great for a dental procedure that does not require the patient to remain awake or hold their mouth open. A dentist will be able to work faster and more effectively without having a patient struggle with discomfort or stress. It’s a good choice for those with anxiety about a specific procedure, and can be used in conjunction with other types of sedation.

This type of sedation may be used with an IV or an inhaler and is often used for longer procedures like wisdom tooth removal. It’s recommended that patients who receive this sedation bring someone with them to drive them home after the procedure because they will be feeling groggy. In addition, they should not take any important or dangerous tasks for a few hours after the procedure. It is also a good idea to wear comfortable clothes and to avoid foods and drinks that could interfere with the effects of the sedative.

Oral sedation

A fear of going to the dentist can prevent patients from receiving the regular dental care they need. Unfortunately, skipping dental appointments can cause major oral health problems and even lead to serious medical conditions. Sedation dentistry can help patients overcome their fear and relax during a dental procedure so they can receive the treatment they need.

Oral sedation is administered through pills that are taken about an hour before the appointment. Patients are conscious and can communicate with their dentist, but they may feel drowsy during the procedure. This type of sedation also causes amnesia, so patients don’t remember the details of their visit. Patients who receive oral sedation should arrange transportation to and from their appointment.

Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is a common method of inhaled sedation. This technique works by combining the gas with oxygen and is delivered through an apparatus that fits over the nose. It’s effective, safe and comfortable, allowing patients to breathe normally during the procedure. The effects of nitrous oxide wear off almost immediately when the apparatus is removed, and patients can drive themselves home after the appointment.

If you are considering using a sedation method, ask the dentist how much training they have received and how many procedures they’ve performed. You can also ask about the sedation medications they use, their side effects and how they interact with other medications you may be taking.

Intravenous sedation (IV sedation)

The most effective sedation method for patients who are severely anxious or fearful of the dental office is intravenous (IV) sedation. During IV sedation, anti-anxiety medication is delivered directly into the bloodstream through a needle in the arm or hand, usually using a drug called midazolam. It takes 3 to 5 minutes for the sedation to kick in. Unlike nitrous oxide, the dentist can control and adjust the dosage during your appointment. This type of sedation is also often used as a precursor to general anesthesia and can help you become more comfortable with the thought of undergoing a major dental procedure.

Dental anxiety is a major reason that people avoid necessary dental work and treatments, which leads to more serious dental problems over time. With the aid of sedation dentistry, many patients can finally receive the dental treatment they need without fear or discomfort.

IV sedation is the safest sedation technique available, providing an extremely low death rate when administered by an experienced dental professional. However, it is important to note that it is not appropriate for everyone, including patients with high BMI, pregnant women, a history of cardiovascular disease or liver disease, uncontrolled diabetes, and those with glaucoma, heart valve disease, and a known allergy to benzodiazepines. Typically, dentists who offer IV sedation have completed intensive programs that include training in the administration of sedation medications and advanced life-saving techniques.

Conscious sedation

Conscious sedation (also known as twilight sleep) is a mild level of sedation that helps you relax and feel less anxious. It’s also used as a type of anesthesia for dental procedures that take longer than typical and/or require more complex work.

With this sedation option, you will be given medication in pill form an hour before the procedure starts. The type of medication depends on your needs, but most dentists use a drug called triazolam (Halcion(r)), which is in the diazepam family. Other medications include zaleplon and lorazepam.

You may experience drowsiness or even fall asleep during this level of sedation, which is why we typically have you bring someone along to drive you home after the appointment. It’s important to remember that twilight sleep is not the same as general anesthesia, which renders you unconscious during treatment and requires advanced training for providers.

The most common way to achieve conscious sedation is through an intravenous infusion of the drug propofol. This is a strong and effective sedative that reduces anxiety and pain during dental procedures. It is typically administered by an anesthesiologist in a hospital or ambulatory surgery center. Before you undergo this level of sedation, your doctor will perform a physical evaluation and review your medical and dental history to ensure that you are healthy enough for it.