Dental Sedation: The Anxiety-Free Option for In-Office Procedures


If you are among those who are scared of dental procedures and worry that they may cause pain and discomfort, dental sedation can help you out. Sedation in dentistry has become quite common in the past few years, and the various styles of dental sedation available today have made it easier for people to get their dental problems fixed without having to face any fear or anxiety.

dental sedation through inhaled gases
Ask your dentist about dental sedation

But what exactly is dental sedation? How does a dentist administer it? And what are the associated costs? Keep reading to find out!

What is sedation dentistry?

Dental sedation, also known as sedation dentistry or dentistry sedation, is an important component of general anesthesia and includes a range of different techniques that are used by a dentist to calm a patient or make them more comfortable prior to a dental procedure. One example that you've probably heard of is laughing gas, which dentists use on their patients for dental procedures such as root canals and getting new crowns.

However, sedation dentistry includes so much more than laughing gas, with a multitude of options for patients with dental anxiety.

How does sedation dentistry work?

There are different methods used for dental sedation, each with its own purpose and strength. Your dentist will choose the most appropriate of them for your situation, based on certain factors such as:

  • The dental procedure being performed (for example, removal of wisdom teeth)
  • The duration of the dental procedure
  • The level of dental anxiety

According to the American Dental Association, a dentist may choose to induce any one of the following forms of sedation:

  • Minimal sedation, in which patients are awake but in a relaxed state
  • Moderate sedation, in which patients are conscious but may experience slurring of speech and slight memory loss
  • Deep sedation, in which patients are at the verge of unconsciousness but can still be awakened
  • General anesthesia, in which patients are completely unconscious

What drug is used for dental sedation?

Prior to performing a procedure, the sedation dentist has to choose the appropriate type of dental anesthesia to calm the patient. While some of these types can make the patients completely unconscious, others like oral sedation may only relax them without knocking them out completely.

The most common types of sedatives used in sedation include the following:

Nitrous oxide

Nitrous oxide is an agent that is inhaled by the patients in order to relax. The effects of nitrous oxide wear off quickly, so you may be able to return to your regular schedule after leaving the dentist's office.     

Dental sedation
Doctors putting an anesthesia mask

Oral sedatives

Oral sedation includes the use of medicines that can be taken via the mouth, such as diazepam. Most dentists instruct the patients to swallow the pills approximately 60 minutes before the appointment. These oral pills will make you less anxious and a bit sleepy but you will still be aware, which is why it is known as conscious sedation.

Intravenous sedatives

Intravenous or IV sedation is an important component of sedation dentistry and includes drugs that may put the patients into varying stages of consciousness. General anesthesia is also a part of the IV sedation dentistry which may induce a deep sleep until the effects wear off.

Some common pharmacological agents use for IV sedation include diazepam, midazolam, and lorazepam.

How long does dental sedation last?

The exact duration for the effects of a dental sedative to wear off depends on the form of sedation used, the dose used, the duration of treatment, and the ability of the body to recover.

  • Oral sedation: 2 to 8 hours
  • IV sedation: 1 to 6 hours
  • Inhaled nitrous oxide: Minutes after the gas is stopped

How safe is sedation dentistry?

Sedation dentistry is an excellent option for patients who suffer from dental anxiety and have to go through long dental procedures that require them to sit in a dental chair for hours. Yet, many patients get concerned about the safety of using a dental sedative and what to expect after taking one.

sedation dentistry by mouth
This sedative will make you feel calmer during treatment!

To eradicate the concerns about the safety of using a dental sedative, it is important to understand what to expect after receiving one. While the patients must discuss the specifics with a dentist, the following general guidelines should be kept in mind.

Before sedation

Before the beginning of the procedure, it is important to avoid eating or drinking for six hours before a sedative is administered. This will reduce the chances of food regurgitation and obstruction of the airways while you are under the effects of anesthesia.

The dentist will then choose an appropriate form of sedation to begin the process. If you have high anxiety levels, you may be advised to use a calming pill prior to the appointment. The dentist may ask your permission to intubate you and give you monitoring devices to keep a check on your vital signs during sedation.

During sedation

As soon as the dentist administers the sedative, it will enter your bloodstream and make you feel relaxed, calm, and a bit lightheaded. You may feel like your arms and legs have gotten heavier too. Before long, you will be too numb to feel any pain, and the dentist can then proceed with the procedure.

After sedation

You might have to stay at the clinic for some time following the procedure in order for your recovery to be monitored. The effects of anesthesia will usually wear off within half an hour; however, you may still feel lightheaded and drowsy for a few hours. So, you must make sure that there is someone to get you back home safely.

Make sure not to use any dangerous machinery and avoid driving any vehicle for at least 24 hours after the procedure. It is also wise to stay away from the kitchen as it can be a dangerous place while you are still under the effects of a sedative.

Your dentist may also recommend avoiding tobacco, alcohol, and other substances for some time. Using additional relaxants during this time when your body is already under the effects of sedatives may also not be a good idea.

Let's see the process of IV dental sedation on Deanna; a patient who's going to have a tooth extraction.

Is sedation dentistry covered by dental insurance?

Normally, general anesthesia is covered by your insurance plan as it is often a medical necessity for the patient to be in a state of unconsciousness during the procedure. For more information, you may talk to your insurance plan provider to confirm the coverage and acquire a pre-approval if possible.

Your insurance plan may also cover dental sedation if you have a medical condition or a certain disability that requires proper sedation prior to performing any dental process. Some insurance plans cover a patient with a medical diagnosis of extreme dental phobia.

Remember that the majority of dental insurance policies cover treatment costs of $1,000 to $1,500 per year, and the fee for your dental treatment along with the cost of sedation may go over this coverage. Therefore, it is advised to take a look at various dental saving plans beforehand.

How much does sedation dentistry cost

The costs associated with dental sedation depends according to the chosen method. Some of these have been summarized in the table below.

Types of dental sedation Estimated cost (per 30 minute session)
Inhaled nitrous oxide $50-$60
IV sedation $290-$340
Deep sedation $180
Non-intravenous sedation $175


If you are particularly worried about an upcoming dental procedure, inquire about dental sedation from your dentist. Using dental sedation may make you feel much better about getting into the chair, and you will not have to worry about any dental issues causing you pain or discomfort anymore.


Will I feel anything during the treatment after dental sedation?

In most cases, patients do not feel a thing. Some of them may feel slight discomfort, and at the end of the appointment, most of them would be relaxed with no memory of the procedure.

Am I a good candidate for sedation dentistry?

Having any of the following fears may make you a good candidate for dental sedation:

  • Anxiety of visiting a dentist
  • Fear of shots or needles
  • History of a traumatic dental experience
  • Inability to handle noises or smells in a dentist's office
  • Having sensitive teeth
  • Need of a complex treatment

Is sedation dentistry safe for children?

Yes, pediatric sedation dentistry is just as safe as adult sedation dentistry. It is routinely performed in multiple clinical settings, so there is no need to worry.

Are there any side effects of dental anesthesia?

In most cases, there are no significant side effects following sedation dentistry. Sometimes, a patient may get hiccups or acquire a dry mouth for a brief period of time.

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Dr. Junaid Tariq
Dr. Junaid Tariq
Dr. Junaid Tariq is a professional content creator and copywriter. The meticulous nature of his MBBS degree proved invaluable in sculpting his research skills and honing his writing efficiency. In addition to working as a content creator, Dr. Tariq continues to fulfill his duties as a medical doctor at a local hospital and has acquired hands-on experience in both acute and chronic patient care. From white papers to blogs, Dr. Tariq writes everything, simplifying complex scientific concepts into basic terms to create something easily accessible and readable for the majority.
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Anesthesia progress: Nitrous oxide and the inhalation anesthetics. Consulted 8th February, 2020 American Dental Association: Guidelines for the use of sedation and general anesthesia for dentists. Consulted 8th February, 2020.