Sedation Dentistry in a General Dental Practice 

By: Savannah Craig

In a world full of dental phobia, sedation has become an increasingly popular option for dentists to offer their patients.

There are many options for types of sedation that can be offered to patients, and each is carefully regulated by state dental boards.

I hope to educate patients about what options are available and what to expect from their experiences with each type of sedation they might be offered. 

Types of Sedation Dentistry Offered

1. Nitrous Oxide 

Nitrous Oxide is also known as laughing gas. A mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen is administered through a nosepiece to the patient.

The patient must take deep breaths through their nose to achieve the effects of the gas.

Nitrous Oxide works to decrease anxiety and can strengthen the impact of anesthetics.

Patients might begin to feel relaxed or tingly while breathing the Nitrous Oxide but they are arousable to stimuli like their dentist talking.

I often tell my patients that they will be aware of what is going on but the Nitrous Oxide makes it so they don’t mind it as much.

A benefit of Nitrous Oxide is once the gas has stopped being administered the effects of the medication are reversed. This makes Nitrous Oxide a nice option for patients because they can drive themselves to their appointments and are not impaired after the procedure is completed.

Nitrous Oxide is also a very effective tool to use for younger patients and children to help them to have a more pleasant dental experience. 

2. Oral Medications 

Some patients prefer a deeper level of sedation and oral medications like Valium or Halcion can be a great tool to offer patients as well.

These medications help to decrease the amount of anxiety a patient feels and allow them to feel more relaxed throughout their appointment.

These medications are typically prescribed by the dentist but need to be picked up from the patient’s pharmacy before their dental appointment.

Patients should follow the instructions on their medication and given to them by their healthcare provider.

However, most dentists will ask the patient to take the medication 30 minutes to an hour before their appointment.

Patients and their dentist may work together to determine an appropriate level of relaxation. Sometimes dentists may administer an additional dose of the medication to help to titrate the medication to its intended effect.

Nitrous Oxide can also be used in conjunction with these oral medications to help patients achieve their desired level of relaxation. 

3. IV Moderate Conscious Sedation 

Dentists can choose to pursue additional training to allow them to provide IV Sedation for their patients.

IV Moderate Conscious Sedation is used to help the patient to relax during a dental procedure.

Medications are administered to the patient through an IV placed in their arm. While some patients fall asleep during the procedure, that is not the intent of moderate conscious sedation.

Patients will be able to breathe on their own, protect their airways, and respond to verbal and tactile stimulation from the dentist during the procedure.

A side effect of the sedation medication is amnesia, which means that some patients may not remember the procedure or much of the day after the sedation medication is given.

IV Sedation may also be administered by a CRNA or Dental Anesthesiologist working with the treating dentist. 

4. Deep Sedation or General Anesthesia 

Specialists like Oral Surgeons and Dental Anesthesiologists are trained to offer deeper levels of sedation and altered consciousness than general dentists can.

For patients who require this type of sedation, they will be referred to specialists who are trained to administer these medications.

Deep Sedation and General Anesthesia are typically reserved for more complex surgical procedures. 

Choosing the Right Type of Sedation Dentistry

Selecting the most suitable type of sedation involves considering factors such as the patient’s medical history, the complexity of the procedure, and individual preferences.

A consultation with the dentist is crucial in making an informed decision.

Keep Reading: Providing Value to Your Patients

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Savanah Craig

Savanah Craig

Savanah Craig obtained her Doctorate of Dental Surgery from The Ohio State University before pursuing a one-year General Practice Residency in Columbia, SC. Dr. Craig is passionate about patient education and utilizes her advanced training to provide excellent care for her patients as a general dentist practicing in Columbus, OH. In her free time, Dr. Craig enjoys reading, exploring new restaurants, and traveling with her husband, Adam.