What is oral sedation dentistry?

Sometimes referred to as “comfortable” or “relaxation” dentistry, the terms describe the feelings most patients experience during their oral sedation appointments. The purpose of oral sedation is to provide a truly comfortable setting for patients through the use of sedative medications administered orally and sublingually.

Appropriately trained dentists can use a variety of protocols customized to a patient’s physiological and pharmacological needs. A number of oral agents developed especially for these purposes, subjected to rigorous research and testing, are very safe, and have been used for decades. The medicines used for oral sedation have “amnesic” properties, meaning that patients remember little to nothing of their time in the dental chair by the next day. All of the medications we use are specifically designed to relax you and keep you comfortable while you are in our office for treatment.

The term “sleep dentistry” is inappropriate. Patients are never meant to sleep through their appointments and should always be able to verbally and physically respond to cues from the doctor and nurse. You will, however, be extremely relaxed and comfortable before we begin and during your entire visit in our office.

Which patients benefit the most from sedation dentistry?

Oral sedation dentistry can benefit a wide range of patients, including people with:

  • High dental anxiety and fear
  • A severe gag reflex
  • Time constraints—those who need to get more dentistry done in fewer visits
  • Chronic or acute jaw soreness
  • Physical limitations such as back and neck problems
  • Difficulty getting numb
  • A reluctance to previously complete treatment plans
  • Extensive treatment needs
  • A desire to have dentistry done comfortably while they are fully relaxed


What are some common side effects of sedative medications?

  • Retro-grade Amnesia – Due to the ‘amnesic’ effects of many of the medications, patients often remember little-to-nothing of their time in the dental chair by the next day.
  • Less Post-Operative Soreness – When patients are afraid, their threshold for pain is much lower. Fear and anxiety trigger the release of certain chemicals in the brain, like adrenaline, which put a patient’s “fight or flight” instincts on high alert. They anticipate that something is going to hurt and so they tense their muscles, even if it is subconsciously, leading to additional soreness post-treatment. With sedation, a patient’s apprehension and hypersensitivity to pain is virtually eliminated, thus reducing the likelihood and severity of post-operative discomfort.
  • Dry Mouth – The sedatives administered during a sedation appointment decrease salivary flow and allow the dentist to perform treatment in a dryer environment.
  • Mild Disorientation/Uncoordination – Occasionally patients report feeling a little funny following a sedation dental appointment. Feelings of mild light-headedness are normal as the sedatives work their way out of the patient’s system. For this reason, we advise that you don’t make any important decisions, operate dangerous machinery, or drive a motor vehicle for 24 hours following a sedation appointment. Also, state regulations will require that patients have a safe ride home from the office from a friend or family member.


Am I a Candidate for Sedation Dentistry?

To find out if you are a candidate for sedation dentistry please schedule an appointment with us for a consultation. At your first visit, you will not be sedated, and we will accomplish the following:

  • Obtain your medical history to determine if you are a candidate for sedation from a medical standpoint
  • Determine your baseline vital statistics, pulse, blood pressure, oxygen saturation
  • Answer any questions you may have concerning your sedation visit
  • Give you the necessary medication
  • Obtain your written consent for the procedure


How Do I Prepare for my Sedation Dentistry Visit?

The night before your sedation visit we may have you take some medication at bedtime. The morning of your sedation appointment we may have you take another tablet of medication. You will need to be driven to the office the morning of your appointment. When you arrive our front desk associates will take down the contact information of your driver so they can be reached promptly to pick you up after the procedure. You will feel very relaxed, but alert. We will escort you to the bathroom, and then to the dental chair. We will not start your procedure until you are very comfortable. Once in the chair, we will make the decision whether to give you more sedation medication. We may also augment your sedation with some nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to achieve optimal relaxation and comfort.

We are eager to help you obtain optimal oral health through oral conscious sedation. Rest assured that you will be in very good hands and you will leave our office smiling! If you have any further questions about this treatment do not hesitate to call or email us.

Whether you are getting a tooth pulled, a cavity filled or your wisdom teeth taken out, we can offer sedation dentistry to make your visit more comfortable.