Is Sedation Dentistry a Safe Alternative for Dental Anxiety?

April 14, 2023

If you wish to be on top of your dental hygiene game, then regular visits to the dentist’s office are unavoidable. This can be for periodic checkups, tooth removal, or even procedures like root canals and dental implant surgery. Delaying these visits or avoiding them altogether can have serious effects on your oral health in the long run. Untreated cavities, for example, can be very painful and can lead to infections. Thus, it is vital that we get our teeth checked by the dentist regularly. Yet, for some people, dental anxiety can act as a barrier, preventing them from getting proper care.

Dental anxiety is when a person experiences fear or anxiety at the thought of being in a dental setting, including a clinic. A 2009 dental health survey concluded that close to 36% of the American population suffers from some form of dental anxiety, with close to 12% experiencing severe anxiety. Having such a high percentage of the population avoid dental visits can be harmful to the overall health of the population. Untreated issues like cavities can, after a certain point, require expensive and painful surgeries. If you or a loved one is facing this problem, sedation dentistry can be a safe and effective option to eliminate dental anxiety.

What is sedation dentistry?

Sedation dentistry entails the application of medicines or sedatives before a dental procedure to reduce pain and ease any anxiety the patient might be experiencing. Various sedatives can be used for this, including nitrous oxide and IV sedation, depending on the needs of the patient. Sedation is usually done for patients whose anxiety might get in the way of proper treatment. It is also used for people with special needs, like those with physical and mental disabilities and those suffering from diseases like Parkinson’s disease and Tourette syndrome.

Options in Sedation Dentistry

  1. Nitrous oxide sedation

Various medicines are available that can produce the sedative effects required for dental procedures. Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is a commonly used sedative. It is administered as a gas mixed with oxygen through a mask placed over the nose and mouth. This also helps the dentist control the amount of gas administered. Once inhaled, nitrous oxide acts quickly and relaxes the body. It will reduce any feelings of anxiety and also numb you to small amounts of pain. The gas wears off quickly and has no side effects, letting you continue with your daily tasks after the procedure.

  1. Oral conscious sedation

Certain sedatives are also available in pill form to be taken orally. They need to be taken around an hour before the dental visit, producing mild to moderate sedative effects. The sedatives used include triazolam (Halcion) and diazepam (Valium). Unlike nitrous oxide, the effects of the pill can last for hours after the procedure. This method is extremely popular as it is both super convenient and cheap. It also doesn’t require any specialized equipment or instruments.

  1. IV Sedation

IV sedation is another method of sedating a patient before a dental procedure. Here, the sedative is injected into the bloodstream intravenously. The drugs used for IV sedation include lorazepam (Ativan) and diazepam (Valium). The drug will not render you completely unconscious. You will be able to respond to verbal commands but will still be limited in movement and cognition. This method can last for a longer period of time compared to pills and nitrous oxide, making it ideal for long procedures. It can also induce temporary amnesia, meaning you won’t remember much about the procedure afterward. One thing to note is that IV sedation can leave you feeling drowsy and tired for hours after the procedure.

Is it safe?

Sedation dentistry is a safe procedure with few to no long-term side effects when carried out by qualified professionals in a clean, controlled environment. Before proceeding with the procedure, your dentist would inquire about any health issues or allergies you suffer from. This is to ensure that the administered drugs won’t cause a negative reaction in your body. Certain sedatives can even be administered to pregnant women without causing any harm to the child or the mother. Also, most sedatives used in dentistry don’t render you completely unconscious, leaving you at least partially aware of your surroundings until the drug wears off.


Today, dental anxiety is a grave issue that affects a large part of the population. It can affect your oral health and cost you a lot of money in the long run. Sedative dentistry is an effective solution to this problem. It can prevent your anxiety from interfering with the treatment by helping you relax and reducing the pain you might be feeling. It is also safe, with no long-term side effects. Certain drugs, like nitrous oxide, are safer than the prescription medicines generally used to treat anxiety. If you or your loved ones living in Katy are facing issues with dental anxiety, we at The Dental People can help. Our team of dental professionals values your comfort and is ready to communicate with you regarding your needs and anxieties surrounding treatment. We also offersedation dentistryservices to help further reduce your anxiety. Call us at (281) 769-7648 orbook an appointment online.



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