What is sedation dentistry?

April 7, 20210

Sedation dentistry refers to the use of pharmacological agents to calm and relax a patient prior to and during a dental treatment. The medications used belong to a class of drugs called sedatives, which exert their action by depressing the central nervous system, specifically those areas concerned with conscious awareness.

You may have heard sedation dentistry referred to as sleep dentistry. The term sleep is not entirely accurate as patients are normally awake, although they may appear completely unaware of the activity around them. You cannot feel the process, and your limbs become heavy and you feel quite tired. The sedation drugs are delivered using an injection or face mask.

Levels of sedation

There are different levels of sedation. Your dentist will chose the best sedation option for you based on medical history, preference and other factors.

Minimal sedation

This is an awakened but relaxed state.

Moderate sedation

You may slow your words and not be fully aware of the procedure.

Deep sedation

The dentist will administer enough medicine to take you to the edge of consciousness, but you can still be awakened.

General anaesthetic

This renders a patient completely unconscious for the duration of the procedure.

Types of sedation


The patient will breath in nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and oxygen through a mask that is placed over the nose. The gas helps you relax and the amount of sedation you receive will be regulated through the mask. This method allows the gas to help you relax and wears off quickly. It is the only for sedation where you may be able to drive yourself home after the procedure.

Oral sedation

Ranging from minimal to moderate, oral sedation is a prescribed pill you take prior to your procedure. The oral tablet will make you drowsy which is why you will not be allowed to drive after your procedure.  A larger dose will provide moderate sedation. You can become groggy during this procedure and it is common for oral sedation patients to even fall asleep. Patients can be woken again with a gentle shake.

IV (intravenous) sedation

This form of moderate sedation is administered through a vein, generally in your arm or hand. IV sedation is quick acting and allows the dentist to carefully administer and adjust the level of medication during the procedure. Your vital signs and breathing are closely monitored during the entire procedure.

No matter which type of sedation the dentist administers you will also need a local anaesthetic. This is the numbing medication to relieve pain as most procedures will cause some discomfort.

When considering sedation for your procedure, we recommend you set up a consultation with your dentist to go over your options and answer any questions you may have.

Dr. Vanila Choudhry at Guru Dentistry of Irvine is one of a few dentists in Orange County offering Intravenous sedation. IV sedation required a special license from the California Dental Board that only a few qualified dentists hold. If you are looking for advanced dentistry in a relaxed, caring atmosphere, give our Irvine dental office a call at (714) 557-7744 or book an appointment online.

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