Woman wearing sedation ventilator.

Sedation or Sleep dentistry is a valuable tool for minimizing discomfort during dental procedures. It can also allow your doctor to complete a substantial amount of dental work in one (1) appointment. For example, suppose you need a significant amount of dental work. In that case, your dentist may recommend sedation/sleep dentistry to keep you comfortable and get the job completed as quickly as possible with minimal discomfort to you. Additionally, some people experience anxiety about dental procedures. Anxiety about going to the dentist can avoid routine dental care and create a negative, self-perpetuating cycle. One way to ease the tension around pain while still getting the care you need is sedation dentistry.

What Is Sedation (Sleep) Dentistry?

Sedation dentistry involves using medication to help you feel calm and relaxed while receiving dental care. It takes the edge off of your experience, so you don't overthink the procedure. For example, suppose you are fearful about going to the dentist. In that case, sedation dentistry can help you overcome those fears and get the preventative care and treatment you need. In addition, sedation dentistry can make it easier for you to have complex dental work completed.

How Do I Cope with Dental Fear?

Dental phobia and fear have two (2) distinct definitions. While often used interchangeably, they are not the same. For example, consider your state of mind as you schedule an appointment at your dentist's office. Do you become anxious? Does your anxiety worsen on the day of the procedure? How do you feel once you are in the dentist's chair? The dictionary defines fear as a distressing emotion aroused by impending pain (whether the threat is real or imagined). However, dental phobia (dentophobia) is an intense, persistent, irrational fear of going to the dentist. You may experience the following physical symptoms resulting in avoidance behavior:

  1. Sweating
  2. Trembling
  3. Rapid heartbeat
  4. Shortness of breath

In short, dental anxiety, fear, and phobia often prohibit patients from seeing their dentist. You are not alone. In 2014, Laura Beaton (Dental Health Services Research Unit, School of Dentistry, University of Dundee) conducted a research study and published the article, Why Are People Afraid of the Dentist? Observations and Explanations. Her research found the following:

Dental anxiety, or dental fear, is estimated to affect approximately 36% of the population, with a further 12% suffering from extreme dental fear. This anxiety can have severe repercussions in terms of an individual's oral health. It is a significant barrier to dental attendance, resulting in poor attendance. Also known as dental avoidance, and can lead to poor oral health or specialty dental care. High dental anxiety also influences the quality of life, with low oral health-related quality of life associated with high dental anxiety.

Dental Sedation Options

There are multiple types of sedation used for dental work. The options range from minimal to deep sedation. Your dentist will recommend the type of sedation most appropriate for the procedures you need and your level of anxiety. A common phrase you will discover as you look into options for sedation is "conscious sedation dentistry." So what is conscious sedation dentistry? Conscious sedation dentistry includes IV sedation, minimal sedation, and deep sedation. These options allow you to feel relaxed while maintaining some level of consciousness. In addition, local anesthesia reduces pain and discomfort while conscious during your dental procedure.

Learning about the available types of sedation will help you play an active role in determining what level of dental sedation will best meet your needs.

IV Sedation involves administering a sedative intravenously during dental procedures. IV sedation can help you feel comfortable and calm while you receive dental work. Your dentist will monitor the level of anesthesia throughout the process and adjust it as needed. IV sedation is a flexible option because it allows for quick adjustments in the level of sedation. For example, find your anxiety or pain levels are increasing. Your dentist can quickly increase your dose to improve your comfort. Because the medication enters your bloodstream, you'll feel the results right away.

Minimal Sedation is a state where you feel relaxed but are awake and able to respond to the dentist. You can still act independently when under minimal sedation. In addition, minimal sedation works to help you feel calm while at the dentist. Options for minimal sedation include taking an anti-anxiety medication at home before going to the dentist or using nitrous oxide immediately before and during the procedure.

Deep Sedation means you won't be awake for your procedure. However, according to the American Dental Association of Guidelines for the Use of Sedation and Anesthesia by Dentists, you may become conscious again and able to respond if you suffer "repeated or painful stimulation." Therefore, dentists typically use deep sedation in situations where patients require extensive dental work. That way, you won't remember any of it.

Local Anesthesia reduces or eliminates sensation in a particular area. Dentists apply local anesthesia topically to a site or through injection. In contrast, local anesthesia doesn't reduce anxiety as the other types of anesthesia outlined above. But, it can help minimize pain and discomfort during dental procedures, making them far more tolerable. Therefore, it's most common in dental practices throughout the United States.

What Dental Procedures Require Sedation?

The type of dental work that requires sedation can vary from person to person. For example, suppose your anxiety about going to the dentist is high. In that case, you may need some sedation to receive the most primary dental care, like teeth cleaning.

There is dental work that requires sedation, even for patients who are not anxious about dental care. Examples of dental work that require sedation in the majority of situations include:

Can I Ask My Dentist for Sedation?

Dentists regularly work with patients who experience dental anxiety. If you feel anxious or afraid about an upcoming dental appointment, talk to your dentist about options for sedation. Your dentist will explain what's available and make a recommendation based on your concerns and the care you require.

It is important to note that the type of sedation available can vary from dentist to dentist. For example, to provide IV sedation anesthesia, a dentist must receive specialized training and licensing. Therefore, if sedation dentistry is a priority for you, be sure and confirm that the dentist you choose offers the services you are interested in receiving.

How Much Does Sedation or Sleep Dentistry Cost?

Sedation or sleep dentistry costs can vary significantly based on factors like:

  1. The type of sedation
  2. The complexity of the procedures you need
  3. Where you live

The least expensive option is typically minimal sedation. That's because all this usually requires is for you to take medication before the procedure. That said, you will most likely need to pay for this option out of pocket. Your dentist can provide you with a quote for the minimal sedation options before your procedure. Once you have a quote for the cost of sedation, you can decide if it is the right option for you.

There are some situations where insurance covers the cost of sedation dentistry. For example, dental implants, extractions, root canals, and other types of oral surgery require sedation to manage pain. Dental insurance providers typically have a list of procedures for which sedation is considered standard and covered by insurance. If you are concerned about sedation dentistry costs, check with your insurance provider about coverage before receiving any sedation.

Sleep Dentistry: The Different Types of Sedation.

What do dentists use for sedation? One of the most common questions for people considering sedation dentistry for the first time. The ADA Guidelines for the Use of Sedation and Anesthesia by Dentists list the most common types of sedation used in dentistry as:

  • Minimal sedation, including oral medication and nitrous oxide
  • Moderate sedation, including drugs administered intravenously or through inhalation
  • Deep sedation, including intravenous administration

Suppose you want more specific answers to the question, "What do dentists use for sedation?" In that case, examples of the particular types of medications used in sedation dentistry include:

  1. Nitrous oxide
  2. Sevoflurane
  3. Benzodiazepines
  4. Ketamine
  5. Propofol
  6. Sufentanil
  7. Opioids

Nitrous oxide is convenient and is an easy way to help with anxiety. Some refer to this as laughing gas. As you breathe the gas your anxiety reduces and you tolerate treatment easier. The benefit of nitrous is that it wears off almost immediately after use and you do not need someone to drive you to your appointment.

Often times, your dentist may feel it necessary to combine the nitrous with an anxiety medication that belong to the "benzodiazepine" family. You've probably heard of them by names such as Valium, Halcion, Xanax, or Ativan. If you will be taking these medications, you are required to have an escort to the office. The escort will wait during the procedure and then you will leave with the escort. You will need to take care of all consent forms and financial arrangements prior to the appointment because this cannot be done while you are on the medication. Usually the prescription is for 3 tablets. One tablet is to be taken the night before the appointment so that you can get a good night's rest. The second tablet is to be taken 1 hour prior to your dental appointment. The 3rd tablet is to keep with you during your appointment in case you need it. If you do not need it be sure to give it to your dentist so that he may properly dispose of it. 

Talk to your dentist if you want to know the exact types of sedation used during your procedures.

What Should I Expect During Sedation?

Not knowing what to expect from dental sedation can add to your overall level of anxiety about going to the dentist. But luckily, you need not worry. You can expect to feel less anxious and calmer in the dentist's chair when you choose dental sedation. As a result, your dentist will ensure your medication has kicked in before beginning any procedure.

How Long Will Sleep Dentistry Last?

The length of time dental sedation lasts can vary significantly and depends on the type of sedation you receive. In most cases, minimal sedation is mild enough that you can continue with your usual activities soon after your dental procedure. However, sedation dentistry side effects last longer if you choose IV sedation or deep sedation. Suppose you require a moderate to a deep level of sedation during your dental procedure. In that case, you will need a loved one to come to the dentist with you and drive you home after you are finished.

How Will I Feel During the Sedation?

Dental sedation provides a feeling of calm. If you're still conscious, you'll feel far away and less concerned about what's happening around you. This mindset allows the doctor to work freely without causing you any panic. For example, suppose you are typically anxious about getting dental procedures. In that case, sedation can reduce that anxiety and let you get the care you need.

Frequently Asked Question

Question: Does IV sedation put you to sleep?
Answer: This method of sedation does not put a patient to sleep. Instead, patients remain in a semi-awake state, or a “twilight sleep.” In most cases, you’ll have little to no memory of the procedure if you receive IV sedation.

Question: How is IV Conscious Sedation different than General Anesthesia?
Answer: It is important that patients understand the difference between general anesthesia and IV conscious sedation. While both may be administered through an IV, you will remain awake during IV conscious sedation but in a deep sleep with general anesthesia. In fact, patients cannot be aroused while under general anesthesia and will need support for breathing and vital sign monitoring.

Question: What are the main benefits of doing sleep/sedation dentistry?
Answer: The main benefits of sedation dentistry include longer treatment times, and maximum amount of treatment done in one appointment. With zero or very little memory of the procedure.

Question: What is the difference between sedation dentistry and sleep dentistry?
Answer: Sedation dentistry does not render the patient unconscious, but keeps them in a relaxed, sedated state. In sleep dentistry, the patient is put under general anesthesia by a certified anesthesiologist and remains completely unconscious during the procedure.

Schedule an Appointment for Sedation Dentistry.

If you find yourself avoiding dental appointments because of fear or anxiety, consider sedation dentistry. Dentists across the country use sedation dentistry to help anxious patients and complete complicated procedures. You can connect with a dentist in your area and schedule a consultation to discuss your sedation needs.

If you're wondering how to find a dentist near me, The Smile Generation® connects you with trusted, experienced, and qualified Dentists. Smile Generation® strives to be your trusted resource for all your dental health needs. We provide a search tool to find a dentist near you, click "Find a Dentist". You may also call us at +1 (800) 764-5343 or use our Website's Live Chat feature located in the lower right-hand corner of your screen.

Sedation Dentistry Faq