What Is Sedation?
Sedation is a process used to establish a relaxed, easy and calm state through the use of sedatives. Sedative drugs (tranquillizers, depressants, anti-anxiety medications, nitrous oxide, etc.) can be administered in a variety of ways. In the past, intravenous (IV) sedation – sedatives delivered via injection into the blood vessels of the hand or arm – was predominantly used to sedate a dental patient. IV sedation is both safe and effective when administered by a trained professional. Today, however, sedation dentistry has evolved to be even more conducive to a relaxing experience. Patients have alternatives to the traditional modalities of inhalation (nitrous oxide or “laughing gas”) and IVs, such as those offering a "no needle” (meaning, no injection) approach that many people find more appealing. Oral sedation dentistry is now the most common technique used in the United States and Canada to quell patient fears. The technique is easy and requires no needles. Best of all, the medications create such a comfortable experience that most patients do not remember the visit; it is as if they slept through the treatment. In reality, oral sedation dentistry maintains a level of consciousness in the patient for safety and cooperation.
There are four types of dental sedation methods used by sedation dentists today:
Oral sedative medications such as diazepam can be given to a patient the night before a dentistry procedure or 30 minutes to an hour before the dental appointment, depending on the severity of the anxiety. Oral sedatives do not provide pain relief, so an injection of local anesthetic will also be administered. Download our informative brochure (Page 1
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Intravenous (IV) Sedation
Like oral sedatives, intravenous (IV) sedation does not provide pain relief, so an injection of local anesthetic will also be administered in conjunction with this method of dental sedation.
Nitrous Oxide Sedation
In one form of conscious inhalation sedation, nitrous oxide gas (also known as laughing gas) is used to induce a state of relaxation. A local anesthetic will be administered in combination with nitrous oxide sedation to eliminate pain.
This method of dental sedation refers to the use of anesthetic to render the patient unconscious. Unlike other sedation methods, the patient will be completely unaware of his or her surroundings, making the use of local anesthetic unnecessary.
Degrees of Dental Sedation
The four dental sedation methods listed above can provide varying degrees of sedation. These include:
This refers to methods of inducing "light sedation." There are several forms of sedatives that result in anxiolysis; however, nitrous oxide, a form of inhalation sedation, is the most commonly used method to bring on this type of relaxation.
Moderate dental sedation can refer to either nitrous oxide or IV sedation. These sedatives can induce conscious sedation, where the patient will be awake and able to respond to commands, but will be in a state of extreme relaxation.
Deep sedation refers to a state between unconscious and conscious dental sedation. Patients will not be able to respond to commands in a consistent manner and may need some assistance with breathing in the event that they are unable to keep their airway open. Unconsciousness General anesthesia causes the airway to close. As a result, patients will need assistance with breathing and will not respond to commands. This method of dental sedation is reserved for oral surgery.
Regardless of the type of sedation dentistry you receive, it is important to have a responsible caregiver accompany you to the procedure (and drive you there if you must take oral medication before arriving for your appointment). The caregiver should drive you home after the procedure is complete and stay with you for an additional two to four hours at home.