Dental Sedation Can Help Ease Dental Anxiety

Dental sedation can help ease your anxiety, fear, or discomfort during dental procedures. Your dentist will review your medical history to ensure sedation is safe for you. Be sure to let them know about any medications you take regularly and whether you are pregnant.


Nitrous oxide, known as “laughing gas,” is an inhalation sedative that produces a calm feeling without impacting awareness or consciousness. You will need someone to drive you home after this type of sedation.

Oral Sedation

Oral sedation uses a single dose of medication taken by mouth about an hour before your appointment. Common medications include triazolam (Halcion(r)), zaleplon (Zofran(r)), lorazepam (Valium(r)), and diazepam (Ketalon(r)).

Minimal sedation, provided by a low-dose pill, makes you feel relaxed & drowsy but doesn’t cause you to lose consciousness. A slightly larger dose results in moderate sedation, which may cause you to feel groggy enough that you fall asleep during your appointment. Your dentist will gently shake you awake when it’s time for your procedure.

If you choose oral sedation, be sure to bring someone with you who can drive you to & from your appointment — especially after your treatment, when the effects of the sedative will take some time to wear off. You should also avoid eating or drinking anything other than clear liquids before your appointment, as this can decrease the effectiveness of the sedation.

Nitrous oxide, more commonly known as “laughing gas,” is another mild-to-moderate sedation option. You breathe in this odorless, colorless gas through a small mask or nosepiece, & it takes effect within three to five minutes. When your dentist is finished with your sedation, they’ll replace the mask & administer pure oxygen to flush the drug from your system. This option is ideal for children who have trouble sitting still or are afraid of dental procedures/needles.

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide, commonly referred to as “laughing gas,” is the mildest type of sedation dental professionals use to help patients relax during treatment. It is administered via a small mask that covers your nose. It starts working within a few minutes and can make you feel more at ease. Nitrous oxide is inhaled through a small nasal tube and can also be combined with other volatile inhalation anesthetic agents to produce more profound effects of anesthesia Moody (2000). Its low solubility in blood and different tissues, together with a rapid increase in concentration in the lungs, enables it to reach a lower effective concentration than most other drugs used for inhalational anesthesia. It also increases the uptake of other volatile inhalation anesthetic gases and oxygen, which decreases the anesthetic dose needed and enables better control of depth of anesthesia.

When nitrous oxide is mixed with propofol for induction, it decreases the required propofol dosage and reduces its hypotensive effects compared to propofol alone Moody (2000). However, nitrous oxide does have the potential to potentiate respiratory depression in patients with renal or hepatic impairment. It can also cause diffusion hypoxia, resulting in rapid oxygen dilution and hypoxia in the alveoli. This can be avoided by administration of 100% oxygen following nitrous oxide cessation.

Because this type of sedation wears off so quickly, it’s important to bring someone with you to drive you home after your appointment. You should not operate a vehicle for several hours after this type of sedation, as it could impair your reaction time and cause dizziness.

IV Sedation

If you require extensive dental work or have a low pain tolerance, oral sedation can help reduce your anxieties and make the procedure much more comfortable for you. It also helps reduce the likelihood of an inopportune gag reflex that can interfere with your dental work and cause discomfort. Gag reflex reduction is especially important when it comes to performing certain dental procedures such as tooth extractions or root canals.

This type of sedation makes you feel sleepy and relaxed, but you are aware and able to respond. We recommend arranging transportation to and from your exam, as you will not be safe to drive following sedation. Similarly, you should avoid strenuous activities, taking medication (unless previously approved by your dentist), drinking alcohol and operating machinery for a minimum of 24 hours after your appointment.

There are three levels of conscious IV sedation, ranging from mild to deep sedation. In the case of deep sedation, you will likely fall asleep and may not remember the dental treatment. With all three levels of sedation, we continually monitor your vital signs and your state of consciousness. In addition to a trained practitioner administering the sedation, you will have 1 or more assistants dedicated to monitoring your status and responding to any changes in your condition. This ensures that the sedation is administered properly and at the right level of drowsiness.

General Anesthesia

For patients with the most severe dental anxiety, those who require extremely invasive or traumatic procedures and those with sensitive gag reflexes, deep sedation may be recommended. This type of sedation allows dentists to work on your teeth for longer periods, so they can perform more procedures in one appointment. It also creates a period of amnesia, so you won’t remember the procedure when you wake up.

For oral sedation, you will be given a pill to take an hour before your appointment. A lower dose results in minimal sedation, while a larger dosage induces moderate sedation. Even the lowest level of oral sedation makes you groggy, but you will not lose consciousness. Your dental professional will be able to communicate with you during the procedure, and they will know if you need to be woken up.

Nitrous oxide, commonly known as “laughing gas,” is another form of minimal sedation. It is a safe drug, with no known allergic reactions, and it takes effect quickly once the mask is placed over your nose. It also wears off quickly, so you can drive home after your appointment.

For the most invasive and severe dental procedures, a dental professional will administer medication directly through the vein (IV). This type of sedation induces deep sedation and keeps you on the edge of consciousness. Most people don’t remember their procedures when they wake up, and many find that they slur their speech afterward. For this reason, it’s important to have a trusted friend or family member drive you to and from your appointment.