Does the thought of having your teeth cleaned make your entire body tense with fear? Would you rather endure the pain of a toothache than step foot in a dentist’s office? You’re not alone. A lot of people are so phobic about going to the dentist that they prefer not to have any treatment, even when they really need treatment. For people who avoid dentists like the plague, sedation dentistry can take away some of their anxiety. Sedation can be used for everything from invasive procedures like a root canal to a simple dental cleaning. How it’s used simply depends on the severity of the fear.


Man giving thumbs up at dentist office


Sedation dentistry uses medication to help patients relax during dental procedures. It is sometimes referred to as “sleep dentistry,” although that’s not entirely accurate. Patients are usually awake, with the exception of those who are under general anesthesia. There are two levels of sedation used in our office, and we’ll help you choose which one is right for you. The two types are:

  1. Minimal sedation — you are awake, but relaxed.

You breathe nitrous oxide, otherwise known as “laughing gas,” combined with oxygen through a mask that’s placed over your nose. The gas helps you relax. Your dentist can control the amount of sedation you receive, and the gas tends to wear off quickly. This is the only form of sedation where you can drive yourself home after the procedure. (Plus, it’s laughing gas. Everyone should experience it at least once.)

  1. Moderate sedation (formerly called “conscious sedation”) — you may slur your words when speaking, and not remember much of the procedure.

Depending on the total dose given, oral sedation can range from minimal to moderate. For minimal sedation, you take a pill. Typically, the pill is Halcion, which is a member of the same drug family as Valium, and is usually taken about an hour before the procedure. The pill will make you drowsy, although you’ll still be awake. A larger dose can be given to produce moderate sedation. This is the type of anesthesia most commonly associated with sedation dentistry. Some people become groggy enough from this to actually fall asleep during the procedure. They usually can, though, be awakened with a gentle shake.

We understand that going to the dentist isn’t exactly a trip to Six Flags. That’s why we’re here to help make your experience as pleasurable and pain-free as possible, whether you’re here for a checkup or a root canal. Sedation dentistry is a very valuable tool, as it both relaxes you and makes us feel less guilty for poking around in your mouth. Learn about these two options, and you can help us make an informed decision about which is right for you.