What Is Sedation Dentistry?

What is sedation dentistry?  Does just the thought of going to the dentist get your heart racing and palms sweaty?

If so, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that between 9% and 15% of the American population don’t go to the dentist each year because of a fear of the dentist or “dental phobia”. Because this affects so many people, more dentists are training in the field of dental sedation and offering it as a solution to their patients. This has made dental sedation one of the fastest growing areas of dentistry in recent years.

If you suffer from dental phobia, dental sedation can make the trip a more relaxing, stress-free one for you. And it helps no matter what the cause of your dental fears are… pain, bad past experiences, the feeling of being helpless/loss of control, and/or embarrassment.

Dental sedation can be used for any kind of dental treatment. Whether it’s just a regular tooth cleaning and checkup or a much more invasive dental treatment. How dental sedation is used depends both on the type of treatment, the severity of the patient’s fear as well as the patient’s overall health (both physical and mental) and medical history.

The goal of dental sedation is to provide a calm and relaxing state for the patient as they undergo their treatment. That way they can get the dental care they need without the high levels of stress and anxiety.

Dental Sedation Options

The types of sedation options generally fall into 4 main categories:

Oral sedation – This is the most common option used for dental sedation. With this option, a patient will take a pill between 30 – 60 minutes before their procedure. Typically the pill is for a sedative in the Valium (or Diazepam) family. It will make the patient drowsy, though usually doesn’t make them fall asleep. Dosage depends on the severity of the patient’s phobia and the procedure. Because oral sedatives like this do not provide pain relief, the dentist will also administer a local anesthetic to the area being treated to keep the procedure pain free.

Nitrous Oxide Sedation – Nitrous Oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, can also be used to help a patient relax during their dental procedure. This is administered by placing a mask over the patient’s nose that has a mixture of Nitrous Oxide and Oxygen running through it. You’ll typically feel the effects of this treatment within a few minutes of the mask being placed over your nose. The effects will wear off soon after the mask is removed. It’s one of the few options where you should be able to drive yourself home after your appointment. As with oral sedation, Nitrous Oxide Sedation does not provide pain relief so a local anesthetic needs to be administered to eliminate any pain during the procedure.

Intravenous (IV) Sedation – This is where you will be administered a sedative drug though a vein instead of taking a pill. The advantage of IV sedation is that it works more quickly than a pill and the dentist has more control over your level of sedation during the procedure. Again, it does not provide pain relief so a local anesthetic may be administered.

General anesthesia / Deep sedation – This is where you will get medication/anesthetic to put you under and make you unconscious during the procedure. Because you will be in a deep sleep and will not be aware of what’s going on around you, no local anesthetic is required for this type of sedation.

Dental Sedation Costs

The cost of dental sedation varies depending on the procedure and where you are located. Nitrous Oxide is the least expensive option, costing anywhere from $25 to $100+. Oral sedation is next falling in the $150- $500 range. IV sedation typically costs somewhere in the $500 – $700 range and general anesthesia will usually fall in the $600 – $700 range.

Dental sedation services are typically not covered by insurance so you’ll either have to pay out of pocket or find a financing option to pay for the treatment.