Sedation Dentistry: Comparing Your Options

If you find yourself postponing your dentist appointments because of your anxiety or fear – you could be a great candidate for sedation dentistry. Commonly referred to as “sleep” dentistry, the use of sedatives before (or during) your dental procedure can drastically increase your comfort level – sometimes even leading you to fall asleep. Your dentist will look at a couple factors in determining which method of sedation would be best for you; the procedure you need and the level of your anxiety or fear. Both methods will relax you and take the edge off – but, just as each patient’s severity of anxiety differs, the options your dentist offers vary in strength.

Nitrous Oxide

Often referred to as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide is one of the most common methods of sedation for mild situations.

Once you’re situated in the dental chair, your dentist will place a breathing mask over your nose and mouth that administers the nitrous oxide. The gas enters your body through inhalation – all you need to do after the mask is in place, is breathe normally. Its effects will begin to set in soon after – but once the gas stops at the end of your procedure, they begin to wear off immediately.

IV Sedation

While stronger than nitrous oxide, with IV sedation, you’ll still be awake enough to respond to your dentist – although you aren’t likely to remember much (if anything) from the procedure.

IV sedation is administered intravenously through a needle that is placed in either your hand or arm. This way, the sedative goes straight into your bloodstream, acting quickly. An anesthesiologist will monitor you throughout your dental procedure and can increase or decrease the amount of medication if need be.

Just as both forms of sedation are administered differently, they each have different benefits. For example, because “laughing gas” can wear off immediately, you’ll be able to drive yourself home from your dentist’s office. We cannot say the same for IV sedation, however, as its effects typically take much longer to dissipate. Your dentist can discuss your options with you to help determine which would be best for your individual situation.