Little girl in dental chair

Types of Dental Sedation

Dental sedation is a process used for patients that either have a phobia of the dentist or are undergoing a procedure that entails potentially intense pain. The goal of sedation is that the patient will be completely calm and pain free during the procedure.

There are four levels of sedation: minimal sedation, moderate sedation, deep sedation, and general anesthesia. During minimal sedation, the patient is awake but relaxed. With moderate sedation, formerly called “conscious sedation,” the patient may slur their words when speaking and not remember much about the procedure once it’s over. Deep sedation puts the patient on the edge of consciousness but they can be awakened from it. General anesthesia renders the patient completely unconscious.

Sedation is usually an option that’s most appropriate for patients that have a real fear or anxiety that prevents them from visiting the dentist. It can also be a good option for people that have a low pain threshold, that can’t sit still in a dentist chair, that have very sensitive teeth, that have a bad gag reflex, or that need a large amount of dental work done.

Children who are terrified of going to the dentist or refuse to cooperate during the visit can be sedated. General nitrous oxide tends to be safe for children. Oral sedation can also be safe when it’s kept within the recommended dosage for the child’s age and weight.

Before a patient is sedated they will typically be given a local anesthetic, a numbing medicine given on-site and on the part of the mouth that the dentist will be working. This agent will relieve pain if the procedure is expected to cause any discomfort.

There are four methods of sedation that a patient might receive when undergoing a dental procedure; inhaled minimal sedation, oral sedation, intravenous (IV) moderate sedation, or deep sedation and general anesthesia.

Inhaled Minimal Sedation

With inhaled minimal sedation, the patient breathes nitrous oxide combined with oxygen through a mask that’s placed on their nose. This gas is more commonly known as “laughing gas.” The gas helps the patient relax and the dentist can control the amount of sedation the patient receives. The gas does tend to wear off rather quickly but this is the only sedation option where the patient may be able to drive home after the procedure.

Oral Sedation

Oral sedation can range from minimal to moderate sedation depending on the total dose given. With this type of sedation, the patient is given a pill to take. Usually the medication is Halcion, which is a member of the same drug family as Valium. The patient will usually be asked to take the pill an hour before the procedure. The medication will make the patient drowsy but they will still be awake.

This is the most common method of sedation for dental procedures. Some people become groggy enough from the moderate form of this sedation that they will fall asleep but they can usually be awakened with a gentle shake.

IV Moderate Sedation

The process of IV moderate sedation involves the patient receiving a sedative drug through a vein in their arm. This type of sedation tends to go more quickly than the others and it allows the dentist to continually adjust the level of sedation.

Deep Sedation and General Anesthesia

Patients under deep sedation or general anesthesia receive medications that make them either almost unconscious or completely unconscious. Due to the deep sleep that the patient is put in, they cannot be awakened easily after the procedure. Under this type of sedation, they must wait for the effects to wear off or reverse the sedation with other medication.

While there is a risk anytime a person is put under anesthesia, it’s usually safe when given by experienced staff like those here at Vero Implants and Periodontics. However, those that are obese or have obstructive sleep apnea should talk with their doctor before going under sedation, as they are more likely to develop complications from anesthesia.

For some people, visiting the dentist for periodontal treatment can create fear or anxiety. At Vero Implants and Periodontics, we want to make your visit as calming and pain free as possible so we offer oral, intravenous, and nitrous oxide sedation to ease your visit.

If you want more information about the sedation options we provide, contact us today.