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Overcoming Dental Anxiety With Sedation Dentistry

For any number of reasons, a visit to the dentist has struck fear and worry into the minds of a portion of dental hygiene seekers for years. Getting a more complicated procedure, such as a root canal or a dental implant, can cause anxiety. However, for some people, the thought of a routine cleaning brings them substantial discomfort. If you fall into this category, sedation dentistry may be a solution for you.

What Is Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation dentistry is the process of using medicine to relax the patient during their dental visit to make their experience calmer and more positive.

Sedation dentistry is not a one-size-fits-all approach — the level of sedation can vary depending on the individual patient’s comfort level, duration of the visit and the work being done. The mildest usage is minimal sedation, where the patient is awake but relaxed. The next level up is moderate sedation, where the patient is still awake, but may not remember much of the visit and will likely slur their words.

Beyond these two more mild levels are deep sedation and general anesthesia, where the patient is slightly conscious and unconscious, respectively.

What Kind of Medicine Is Used in Sedation Dentistry?

A variety of medicines can be used to achieve the desired level of sedation.

The lowest level of sedation is achieved through inhaling oxygen and nitrous oxide, colloquially known as “laughing gas.” This is mild sedation designed to help you relax, and it usually wears off quickly. The dentist can also adjust how much gas you receive, dialing in minimal or increased amounts.

Oral sedation is implemented for mild and moderate sedation. This takes the form of a sedative pill, something like Valium, and the dose can be increased to strengthen the sedation. This type of sedation requires some preparation, as the patient is to take the pill about an hour before the dentist visit.

A similar approach is administering the sedative through an IV, allowing the patient to experience the effects quicker and for the dentist to have control over the amount of sedation given.

Lastly is the route of general anesthesia to bring the patient to near unconsciousness or unconsciousness.

It’s worth noting that the only type of sedation that permits the patient to possibly drive home from their visit is the nitrous oxide gas. All of the other sedatives require more time to wear off and therefore cause impairment for the patient. For all sedation dentistry, it’s wise to have transportation by a third party arranged beforehand.

When Is Sedation Dentistry Helpful?

Sedation dentistry is most helpful to calm patients with significant anxiety around going to the dentist, therefore enabling them to receive the dental care they need. However, there are other people for whom sedation dentistry is appropriate, such as those who need a large amount of dental work, those who have very sensitive teeth and those who have a considerably bad gag reflex.

Sedation dentistry is also helpful in managing pain. While many procedures require a local anesthetic to numb the particular area being addressed, sedation dentistry can provide additional pain relief, especially during more complicated procedures. Furthermore, sedation dentistry provides pain relief for the administration of the local anesthetic itself, which is helpful for patients sensitive to needles.

In the event that a child is very scared of going to the dentist, nitrous oxide can be administered to calm them and allow them to cooperate during the visit.

Sedation Dentistry and Safety

When administered by an experienced dentist, sedation is usually safe. However, there are risks — as with any use of medication — and it’s important that you feel comfortable with the level of sedation you’re seeking. Furthermore, some people have elevated risks of complications. Those who are morbidly overweight or have sleep apnea should discuss sedation dentistry with their physician.

Prior to any sedation, be sure to disclose your medical history to your dentist, including any allergies and current medications. Ask questions about the dentist’s experience with administering sedation, inquire about the appropriate dose for your age, weight and health, and discuss the risks and any personal concerns you might have. Additionally, verify that the dentist has oxygen and medicine to reverse the effects of the sedatives should any complications arise.


Sedation dentistry can help those with considerable anxiety or fear around seeing the dentist have a relaxed, positive and successful visit. It can also benefit other patients with specific circumstances, such as those who need extensive dental work or are particularly sensitive to pain. Angela Bateson, DDS and her team at Bateson Dentistry are experienced in working with patients to find the best sedation solution for them. If you are looking for a superb dental treatment experience, dental anxiety or not, call 419-863-2636 for more information or schedule an appointment online.


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