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Types of Sedation Dentistry: Finding the Right Option for You

A woman receiving nitrous oxide before a dental procedure.

The number of Americans who experience some level of dental anxiety is staggering. If you’re included among them, you are definitely not alone. However, it’s important not to let your discomfort prevent you from getting the dental care that you need.

Fortunately, there are safe and effective methods to ease dental anxiety. Sedation dentistry can help you feel calmer and more at ease so that you can receive the treatment you need to protect your smile. But what exactly is sedation dentistry, and how do you know which type is best for you?

What Is Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation dentistry is the application of various medications during dental treatment. These medications can help calm you or even put you to sleep for the duration of the procedure. Different forms of sedation dentistry can be used, depending on the nature of the procedure and the needs of the patient.

Types of Sedation Dentistry

When you visit your dentist to develop a treatment plan, you’ll want to talk to them about your options for sedation dentistry. Your dentist may suggest one of these reliable options:

Nitrous Oxide

The most common form of sedation dentistry is also the mildest. Nitrous oxide — or laughing gas — will not make you fall asleep during treatment, but it will allow you to feel more relaxed and even a bit uplifted, making for a smooth and comfortable procedure.

This form of sedation dentistry is administered through a face mask. It takes effect quickly and wears off with similar speed, making it possible for you to drive yourself to and from the office for your procedure, which is not the case for most other forms of sedation dentistry.

Oral Sedation

Oral sedation is the term used for a variety of medications that relieve anxiety and help the patient feel calm and relaxed during a procedure. Most often, oral sedation comes in the form of benzodiazepines, which are anti-anxiety medications like lorazepam and diazepam. However, there are a few other medications your dentist may suggest.

This form of sedation dentistry is often recommended for patients with moderate dental anxiety. It’s stronger than laughing gas, and the effects last longer, which means you’ll need to schedule a ride to and from the office on the day of the procedure.

IV Sedation

Intravenous (IV) sedation involves the administration of the sedative directly into the veins of the patient, which provides a powerful calming effect. While IV sedation does not make the patient fall completely asleep, it will reduce their consciousness to the point where they’re unlikely to recall much of the procedure at all.

Your dentist is most likely to suggest IV sedation in cases of severe dental anxiety or during a procedure that’s lengthy and more involved. This form of sedation is a strong one, and you will not be capable of operating a motor vehicle for a period of time after the procedure, so you’ll need to arrange a ride to and from the office.

General Anesthesia

When the procedure is complex enough, your dentist is likely to suggest general anesthesia. This form of sedation dentistry is administered intravenously, and it causes the patient to become unconscious for the entirety of the procedure.

General anesthesia can only be administered by an anesthesiologist, who will then monitor the patient during treatment. Your dentist will give you specific preparation instructions before general anesthesia, and you will need someone to drive you to and from the office on the day of the procedure.

Which Option Is Best for You?

Your dentist will recommend a form of sedation for you based on the nature of the procedure, your level of dental anxiety, and any extenuating circumstances that may cause limitations, such as your current health and your medical history.

If your dentist provides you with multiple sedation options, then the most important factors in choosing which of those options is best for you might be how anxious you are about the procedure and how capable you are of finding someone to drive you to and from the office, if that’s a requirement of the form of sedation you choose.

Advanced Care From Dental Implant & Aesthetic Specialists

Choosing a skilled dentist who has a reputation for compassionate care is key to managing dental anxiety. Dr. Brett Langston and the team at Dental Implant & Aesthetic Specialists have extensive experience in sedation dentistry in Atlanta and can help you explore the right option for your needs. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.