Many individuals fear the prospect of dental procedures. The innate fear can result in heightened anxiety, leading to delayed or neglected oral care which is a critical component of overall health.

Such fear can manifest in various forms, from mild unease to severe phobia, hindering optimal dental treatment. Fortunately, dentistry has evolved, and a solution exists to mitigate these concerns—sedation.


What is sedation in dentistry?

It refers to the controlled administration of medication to induce relaxation and tranquility in patients undergoing dental procedures. The primary purpose is twofold: to alleviate anxiety and discomfort while enabling dental practitioners to perform their tasks with greater ease and precision.

Think of sedation in dentistry as a tailored approach to ease the apprehensions that often accompany dental visits. It is not about rendering patients unconscious; rather, it seeks to create a serene environment where individuals can receive necessary treatments without undue stress.

Dental professionals, trained in sedation techniques, carefully evaluate a patient’s medical history, current health status, and individual preferences before determining the most suitable sedation method. With that, what sedation is used in dentistry?


There are 4 types of sedation in dentistry:


Mechanism of Action and Benefits

Ideal Candidates

Administration and Dosage Considerations

Scientific Enhancement of Patient Relaxation

Nitrous Oxide (Happy Gas)

Nitrous oxide is a colorless and odorless gas that patients inhale through a small mask. It works by depressing the central nervous system, inducing relaxation and euphoria. 

Individuals with mild to moderate anxiety, a strong gag reflex, or those requiring a shorter, less invasive dental procedure.


Nitrous oxide is mixed with oxygen in controlled ratios. The gas takes effect within minutes and diminishes rapidly once the mask is removed. 

The gas increases the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, leading to a calming effect. It also has analgesic properties, reducing pain perception during the dental procedure. 

Oral Sedation

Oral sedation involves the administration of a prescribed medication, typically a benzodiazepine, taken orally before the dental procedure. 

Individuals with moderate to severe dental anxiety or those undergoing more extensive dental treatments suit this type of sedation in dentistry.

Administered in pill or liquid form, patients take the medication before the appointment, allowing time for the sedative effects to take hold. 

Benzodiazepines act on the central nervous system by binding to specific receptors, increasing the inhibitory effects of GABA. This results in sedation. 

Intravenous (IV) Sedation

IV sedation involves the administration of sedative medications directly into the bloodstream through a vein. 

Individuals with severe anxiety or patients with a fear of needles who may find intramuscular injections distressing. 

Administered by a qualified anesthesiologist or trained dental professional, the dosage is carefully controlled to achieve the desired level of sedation. 

The medications used in this type of sedation in dentistry, such as propofol or midazolam, target GABA receptors in the brain, producing a profound sedative effect. 

Local Anesthesia

Local anesthesia targets a particular part of the body to block sensations of pain. 

Individuals undergoing restorative procedures, tooth extraction, and root canal therapy to name a few. 

Administering local anesthesia involves injecting anesthetic agents near the treatment site. Application of topical anesthetic gel or cream or oral anesthetic solutions is also possible. 

This type of sedation in dentistry induces an interruption of pain signals at the nerve endings, preventing the transmission of pain sensations to the brain.


Risks of Sedation in Dentistry

Undoubtedly, sedation in dentistry has become integral for enhancing patient comfort and facilitating effective treatments. However, there are potential concerns and risks associated with these sedation methods:

Adverse reactions

While sedation is generally safe when administered by trained professionals, there is always a small inherent risk of an individual experiencing an unexpected reaction to the sedative agents. Factors such as allergies, pre-existing medical conditions, or the use of specific medications may influence how a patient responds to sedation.

Impact on Cognitive Function

The fear of feeling disoriented, confused, or experiencing memory loss during or after the dental procedure is a valid consideration. However, it is essential to note that various sedation methods are carefully calibrated to induce relaxation without compromising cognitive faculties excessively.

Post-sedation recovery

Patients often express concerns about the duration and nature of recovery, fearing lingering sedative effects or discomfort.

All of the above are only a few of the reasons why dental professionals and patients must have clear communication when it comes to sedation in dentistry. The former employs rigorous pre-screening processes, meticulously chooses the appropriate sedation level based on the procedure’s complexity and the patient’s individual needs, and addresses the latter’s concerns through detailed post-sedation instructions. This transparency empowers patients with the knowledge needed to contribute to an overall positive experience.

sedation in dentistry types of sedation inner west dental

Addressing dental anxiety emerges as a cornerstone for successful outcomes of every dental procedure, and informed consent is the bedrock of patient-centered care.

Before administering any form of sedation in dentistry, it is not merely a procedural formality but a crucial dialogue between the dentist and the patient. This process ensures that the patient is fully aware of the chosen sedation and its implications, and provides an opportunity for any queries to be addressed.

After all, an informed patient is a reassured patient, and that paves the way for a smoother, more cooperative dental experience.

For a comfortable and painless dental experience, book your appointment at Inner West Dental.