Dental sedation is a widespread practice used by dentists everywhere to help patients feel more relaxed and comfortable during their treatment. In some cases, dental sedation can allow longer, more complex procedures to be completed in a shorter time frame or fewer appointments.

Sedation dentistry is especially beneficial for individuals who experience moderate to severe dental anxiety or struggle with a particularly sensitive gag reflex. With that said, before anyone opts to undergo dental sedation, they must know what to expect to ensure the most comfortable and stress-free treatment experience. 

This article will explore everything involved with sedation dentistry, from the various types of dental sedation used in practice to what patients can expect before, during, and after their appointment. Before receiving dental sedation, you’ll need to consult with your dentist. 

While most people in good health can receive dental sedation without issues, it’s still essential that you consult with your dentist before opting for sedation during your procedure. The dentist will help you determine whether you’re an eligible candidate, in addition to the type of sedation most suitable for you, through factors such as your medical history, age, and the kind of dental procedure you’ll be undergoing.

Exploring the Types of Dental Sedation 

In dentistry, four main types or levels of sedation exist to assist patients with their dental procedures. 

These four main options for dental sedation are: 

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas, is the mildest sedative used in dentistry. With this type of sedation, gas is breathed in through a mask placed over the patient’s nose, providing a virtually instant feeling of calmness and relaxation (and even some euphoria that may result in giggles). 

The effects of nitrous oxide wear off quickly after the gas is not administered. 

Oral Conscious Sedation

This type of sedation is to be taken orally, usually in the form of a pill, about one hour before the scheduled dental appointment. 

While this form of sedation provides a deeper level of calm compared to nitrous oxide, patients will remain conscious and able to respond to the dentist during the procedure (although they may feel drowsy and have a more limited recollection of the events during their appointment). 

The effects of oral conscious sedation wear off gradually following the procedure.

Intravenous (IV) Sedation

Generally used for more complex procedures, intravenous (IV) sedation is a deeper form of sedation that involves administering sedative medication directly into the bloodstream via an IV. 

IV sedation allows the practitioner to control the level of sedation issued, which helps to ensure the patient’s comfort throughout their treatment. Patients will often forget most of their procedure due to the heavier level of sedation. 

General Anesthesia 

For more complex treatments and/or patients who suffer from extreme dental anxiety, general anesthesia (the deepest level of sedation) may be required for a smooth and successful procedure. 

During general anesthesia, the patient will be completely unaware of the events of their appointment and cannot experience any unpleasant or anxious feelings. These anesthetic drugs are administered through an IV or may be inhaled, and the degree of sedation is carefully monitored and adjusted by the practitioner as necessary. 

The patient will need monitoring following their treatment until they are awake and capable of responding normally. 

What to Expect and How to Prepare Before, During and After Your Appointment with Dental Sedation 

Before the Appointment

If you are receiving a type of sedation requiring fasting, you must refrain from eating for six to eight hours before your scheduled dental appointment. Refrain from smoking, as well. 

You will, however, be permitted to drink tiny amounts of water or apple juice up until three hours before your procedure.

Your dentist may also ask that you stop taking certain medications before your procedure, depending on the type of sedation. Ensure that you have enough soft foods and OTC medications such as Tylenol or Advil for post-procedure pain relief.

Furthermore, suppose you are receiving dental sedation other than nitrous oxide. In that case, you should arrange to be accompanied by a trusted adult, such as a close friend or family member, who can drive you home, as you will not be able to drive for 24 hours following your procedure. 

This person should also be ok to stay with you for several hours at home following your procedure. 

Arrive at your appointment wearing loose-fitting, comfortable clothing such as pyjamas, and refrain from wearing nail polish or contact lenses. Also, arrive at least 10 minutes before your scheduled appointment time. 

During the Appointment

During your scheduled dental procedure, you’ll be monitored closely by the dentist along with a trained assistant to ensure your safety and comfort. You will feel more relaxed and somewhat drowsy with milder forms of dental sedation. However, you will still be able to respond to the dentist’s questions and instructions. 

With complete sedation, you will be entirely unconscious for your procedure and unable to recall any events from your appointment. A local anesthetic will still be administered alongside (and usually after) sedation to protect your teeth and gums from pain. 

After the Appointment

When you arrive back home to rest, know that you may experience some mild lingering side effects from your sedation, including feelings of drowsiness and/or headache. Fortunately, these symptoms should resolve within a few hours. 

In addition to avoiding operating any machinery or driving for 24 hours, it is also essential that you avoid smoking or drinking alcohol. Try to eat only healthy, nutritious foods while you recover, and drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

The Bottom Line

Dental sedation is both a safe and effective way for anxious patients to manage their dental fears and help make their appointment much more pleasant and relaxing. By being informed and prepared about dental sedation, you can feel even more confident about your procedure and avoid any potential risks by following the necessary instructions. 

Visit Downtown Sleep Dentistry and Oral Surgery Today

To learn about our dental services and sedation options, or to schedule an appointment with our dental care specialists in Hamilton, call Downtown Sleep Dentistry and Oral Surgery at 289-272-8696 or contact us here.