All About Sedation Dentistry

Sedation Dentistry is an effective form of treatment for patients with severe dental anxiety. It's also necessary to ensure patients remain comfortable when performing dental surgery. Learn all about the types of dental sedation we use in our Kanata and Kemptville clinics and how they keep our patients comfortable.

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What Is Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation dentistry is the the practice of using medication to help patients relax while they are at a dental appointment receiving treatment. It is an especially effective practice for patients with severe anxiety, or phobias about dental procedures, or for patients receiving a procedure which could cause more pain than a safe dosage of a local anesthetic can fully mitigate.

Levels of Sedation

There are four levels of sedation that a patient could receive for a procedure.

  • Minimal sedation: The patient is awake but relaxed.
  • Moderate sedation: The patient is awake but but likely won't remember much of the procedure.
  • Deep sedation: The patient is barely conscious and won't remember the procedure at all. (We do not offer this type of sedation)
Man with a nasal gas mask being sedated before dental work.

Types of Sedation Used in Dentistry

There are four types of sedation that are used in sedation dentistry.

Inhaled Sedation

The patient inhales a mixture of nitrous oxide, or "laughing gas," and oxygen through a mask placed on the nose to provide minimal sedation. The dentist controls the amount of gas the patient receives and it tends to wear off quickly.

Oral Sedation

The patient is given a pill to take orally about an hour before the procedure. Depending on the dosage given, the level of sedation can range from minimal to moderate. As the sedative takes effect, the patient will feel drowsy but still be awake. In some cases, the sedative can make the patient drowsy enough to fall asleep. However, they can usually be woken up by a gentle shake. This type of sedation is most commonly associated with sedation dentistry.

IV Sedation

Intravenous sedation, also referred to as conscious sedation, involves injecting the sedative medication directly into the patient's veins. This allows the sedative to take effect more quickly than with oral or inhaled sedation.

Once injected into the vein, it works almost immediately, placing the patient in a conscious, yet very relaxed state. The dosage is then controlled by the dentist as needed, aiming for a moderate level of sedation. This is commonly used for more complex procedures such as surgical removal of teeth.

It is very effective for those who experience more intense levels of fear at the dentist. Since this form of sedation dentistry is a little more potent, it can take some time to recover from the groggy feeling afterwards, which is why it’s necessary to have someone escort the patient home.

Young woman getting a filling at the dentist.

Who Can Benefit From Sedation Dentistry

On top of being a great help for people who struggle with fear and anxiety about dental procedures, sedation dentistry can benefit patients with:

  • A low pain threshold.
  • Problems sitting still in a dental chair.
  • Very sensitive teeth.
  • A bad gag reflex.
  • A need for a large amount of dental work.

Risks of Sedation Dentistry

There is always a risk involved with using an anesthetic medication. Patients can have an unexpected reaction to the medication, or an improper dosage could be administered. A dentist who is experienced in sedation dentistry will know what information to ask for when consulting with the patient and will know how to control the dosage of the anesthetic, making these risks particularly low.

People who are obese, or have obstructive sleep apnea are at greater risk of complications from sedation dentistry and need to consult with their doctor before undergoing any dental procedures with sedation.

Who Can Perform Sedation Dentistry

Most dentists are able to administer minimal sedation in the form of nitrous oxide and oral medication. Many dentists these days have also received training to administer moderate oral sedation.

In order to be able to administer IV sedation, a dentist must become certified by the dental regulatory authority in their province. For Ontario, that is the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario.

Dentists who receive this certification are usually oral and maxillofacial surgeons and dental anesthesiologists. These types of dentists are qualified to administer any type of sedation to both children and adults.