What is Sedation Dentistry

Sedation dentistry is used in order to help patients relax during dental procedures. Does the mere thought of stepping foot into a dentist office make you want to remove your feet? The idea of cleaning and polishing your teeth send shivers down your spine? The simple mention of possibly having to have a cavity filled, enough to keep you out of the dentist office forever? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, know that you are not alone. Many individuals suffer from debilitating phobias that keep them out of the dentist office and dodging necessary dental treatments altogether.

For those individuals who look to dentists’ offices as if they were infected with the plague, sedation dentistry may be just what the doctor ordered! Sedation dentistry helps to ease the anxieties associated with dental office visits for everything from a routine dental cleaning, to an invasive oral surgery. The patient can quite literally rest assured that they will not be struck with a severe panic attack mid-drill.

What is Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation dentistry uses medication to help ease patient’s nerves during dental procedures that they may otherwise not be able to endure. Often referred to as “sleep dentistry” – which is not entirely accurate as most patients are awake even during sedation dentistry procedures – your dentist will determine the require dosage and type of anesthesia to be used depending on the severity of your anxiety.

There are many different levels of sedation dentistry that are used, for different levels of dental anxieties. With use of minimal sedation you will be fully awake, however relaxed. Moderate sedation is commonly referred to as “conscious sedation,” this means that you will be awake, however, you will likely not remember much of the procedure. Deep sedation refers to when you are just on the edge of consciousness, but can still be awake. The last level of sedation dentistry used is known as “general anesthesia,” where you will be unconscious and not remember any of the procedure.

Different Types of Sedation Dentistry

There are 4 different types of sedation dentistry used to achieve the 4 different levels of sedation for patients with anxiety. In order to achieve minimal sedation – where the patient is awake, fully conscious, but relaxed – nitrous oxide is used. Nitrous oxide is often referred to as “laughing gas.” It is inhaled through a mask, where your dentist can easily control the dispersal of additional anesthetic if necessary. The effects of minimal sedation wear off quickly and is generally the only type of anesthesia that you can receive and still be able to drive yourself home after your procedure. The second type of sedation dentistry is known as oral sedation. Oral sedation is used in order to achieve moderate sedation and is administered through pill form. The type of drug will vary, but is generally in the Valium family. The pill is usually to be taken approximately an hour before the procedure. The next level of sedation dentistry is deep sedation, which is achieved by IV administration of anesthesia. The anesthesia is injected through the use of an IV directly into the vein allowing the dentist to adjust the dosage as necessary. The heaviest level of sedation dentistry is achieved with the use of general anesthesia.

When is Sedation Dentistry Used?

The most common use for sedation dentistry is for those individuals who have such a real fear of the dental chair that the anxiety alone keeps them from routine dental exams and necessary procedures. However, there are other times when a dentist may deem sedation dentistry helpful to the cause. For instance, if the patient has an extremely low threshold for pain tolerance, he might opt to use sedation dentistry. In cases where the patient has very sensitive teeth and gums, the dentist might decide to use sedation dentistry to “take the edge off.” If a patient suffers from a bad gag reflex it may be necessary to use minimal sedation in order to complete the cleaning or procedure. Patients that have a difficult time sitting still (children, for instance) in the dental chair may also require sedation dentistry. Additionally, patients that are undergoing an extensive amount of dental work will require sedation dentistry in order to complete the procedures.

Sedation Dentistry – Not a Job for Everyone

Most dentists are certified to administer minimal sedation to their patients, this includes pills and nitrous oxide. Even a large number are able to give moderate sedation. However, when it comes to deep sedation and general anesthesia only a select few dentists are properly licensed. A dentist must have completed the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) in order to administer deep sedation dentistry and general anesthesia. Dentists that are legally licensed to use these heavy and more complicated sedation techniques are generally dentist anesthesiologists, maxillofacial and oral surgeons.

Is Sedation Dentistry Safe?

Sedation dentistry is generally safe for patients, so long as it is being administered by a properly licensed practicing dentist. However, just as any time that anesthesia is used there are risks that can be associated with the practice. That is why it is essential that you validate your dentist’s credentials – to be sure that they are properly qualified and trained – prior to allowing him/her to administer any form or level of anesthesia.

There are certain individuals who are not the best candidates for use of anesthesia, including those with sleep apnea or heart conditions, due to their increased risk of complications.

To learn more about sedation dentistry and how safe it is, contact Progressive Dental Care Center today at (717) 637-0202.



250 Fame Ave Ste 206
Hanover, PA 17331
PHONE 717-637-0202
Monday ............... 8:30 AM - 5 PM
Tuesday ............... 8:30 AM - 5 PM
Wednesday .......... 8:30 AM - 5 PM
Thursday ............. 8:30 AM - 5 PM
Friday .................. 8:30 AM - 4 PM