Dental Sedation For Dental Anxiety

Sedation allows anxious patients to overcome their fear and get the dental treatment they need. Your dentist will administer sedative medications in pill form or intravenously.


Each sedation method has its advantages and considerations. Your dentist will determine which option is best for you based on anxiety levels, medical history and procedure complexity.

Oral Sedation

For mild dental anxiety, oral sedation can be helpful. We give you a pill to take an hour before your appointment, and you’ll feel sleepy but conscious. You can tell us if you have any specific questions about the medication and we’ll check your blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing to make sure they remain normal.

This type of sedation is perfect for adults and children with dental anxiety. It’s safe for both kids and adults, and it doesn’t affect your ability to drive. Your dentist will put a mask over your nose and direct you to breathe in a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen. Within minutes, you’ll start feeling calming effects and will feel relaxed in the chair. Some patients may feel heaviness in their arms and legs, but the sensations wear off quickly once the dentist flushes your system with pure oxygen at the end of your appointment.

Most patients who receive oral sedation have no memory of their dental procedure once the sedation wears off. However, if you choose this type of sedation, it’s important to bring a trusted friend or family member with you. They can drive you home after the appointment and wait with you while the sedation wears off. You should not attempt to drive yourself after an oral sedation appointment.

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is a mild form of sedation that we use to help patients relax in the dental chair. This type of sedation can be used for adults and children. It is inhaled through a mask that’s placed over your nose. The dentist can control the amount of nitrous oxide you receive, and it typically wears off fairly quickly. This is one of the only forms of sedation that allows you to drive home after your appointment.

This method of sedation has a low risk of complications and side effects. However, it’s important to tell your dentist if you have any medical conditions or take medication before using this sedation method. Also, you should not use nitrous oxide if you’re in the first trimester of pregnancy or have a cobalamin (vitamin B-12) deficiency.

Before using nitrous oxide, your dentist will give you explicit instructions to follow. These usually involve avoiding food and drink for 6 hours before the procedure. You should also arrange for a friend or family member to drive you home afterward. It’s important to get home safely so the sedation can wear off completely. It’s not safe to drive under the influence of nitrous oxide. Also, you should not smoke or eat anything for about 15 minutes after the appointment. This helps prevent vomiting, which could aspirate into your lungs and cause complications.

Intravenous Sedation

For the most serious cases of dental anxiety and/or more lengthy or complicated procedures, intravenous (IV) sedation may be necessary. Often called “twilight dentistry,” this method of sedation allows patients to remain in a semi-awake state, responding to verbal commands and light tactile stimulation. The sedative will help you relax and feel at ease, but most people wake up with little or no memory of the treatment itself.

With this type of sedation, you will need to arrange transportation both to and from your appointment, as the effects can take quite some time to wear off. You will be given a single dose of medication based on your weight, and the team will monitor your vital signs throughout your procedure to ensure your safety and comfort.

If you’re afraid of needles, you can opt for nitrous oxide sedation instead. You will inhale nitrous oxide alongside oxygen through a mask that covers your nose, and calming effects begin within three to five minutes. Once your dentist is finished, they will flush the gas out of your system with pure oxygen, and you’ll be able to drive yourself home.

With any form of sedation, it’s important to follow the individualized instructions your dentist provides. It’s also a good idea to avoid driving, operating machinery, or making any important decisions for at least 24 hours after your appointment.

General Anesthesia

For those who have extreme fear or anxiety, dentists may recommend general anesthesia. This is administered through a vein in the arm or hand and is the most intense level of dental sedation. With this type of sedation, you’re unconscious, and you only wake up when your procedure is finished. This is usually reserved for patients with extensive dental work or who are considered high-risk.

Before sedation dentistry, your dentist will review your medical history and make sure you’re an appropriate candidate. He or she will also check your heart rate and blood pressure, and ask about any medications you take. It’s important to be honest about your medical history so the dentist can ensure safety and effectiveness.

If you have oral sedation, your dentist gives you pills to take an hour before your procedure. Depending on how strong the pill is, it can make you drowsy and relaxed but still conscious. The dentist will give you nitrous oxide as well, which you breathe through a mask placed over your nose. It creates a feeling of euphoria, which is why it’s sometimes called laughing gas. It will also help you feel calm and at ease, and many people don’t remember their procedure afterwards.

The most common sedative used in sedation dentistry is midazolam, which has been shown to reduce anxiety and promote memory loss without impairing the functioning of your heart or lungs. It’s commonly prescribed as a short-acting medication, and it can be reversed within two to three minutes if you experience any side effects such as vomiting or nausea.