What You Need to Know About Sedation Dentistry

What You Need to Know About Sedation Dentistry
Posted on 02/19/2020


Have you ever heard a friend or family member talk about taking a pill to help them relax before a dentist appointment? Did someone at your dentist’s office mention “laughing gas”? These are types of sedation dentistry

It’s common for patients to feel anxious or panicky before an appointment, especially if they suffer from dental anxiety or dental phobia. Dentists often recommend sedation medication to help relieve that anxiety. If you’ve never personally experienced sedation dentistry, you might have questions like

  • Does it really work?

  • What does it feel like?

  • Will it really make my appointment easier?

By the end of this post, you should have a good understanding of what sedation dentistry is, why it works, and what to expect if you and your dentist decide it’s right for you. Here’s what you need to know.

Sedation dentistry can help you overcome dental anxiety


The most common reason to use sedation during a dentist appointment is to reduce fear and anxiety. Dental anxiety is very common, and people experience it for a variety of reasons. A few of the most common sources of dental anxiety are:

  • Fear of having a negative dental experience

  • A previous negative dental experience

  • Worrying about the cost of treatment

  • Experiencing a gag reflex

  • Fear of receiving bad news

If you’re experiencing anxiety about an upcoming dental procedure, sedation dentistry can help you get the treatment you need more comfortably. The great thing about sedation is that it helps with all types of dental anxiety, no matter the cause, because it addresses anxiety at the physical level. 

Sedation dentistry isn’t only for people with dental anxiety

Anxiety and fear aren’t the only factors that can make it difficult to get through a dental appointment. Sedation can make treatment easier for people who have a strong gag reflex or who have difficulty sitting still during long appointments. People who need a lot of dental work often choose to take advantage of dental sedation because it makes it easier for the dentist to get a lot done in a single appointment.

For example, if you haven’t been to the dentist in years, a regular cleaning and exam will likely take longer than it would for someone who gets cleanings every 6 months. With sedation, you’ll be able to simply relax comfortably in the chair the whole time, and you’re less likely to need to take breaks. That means your appointment would be over much faster than it would without sedation. You’ll be on your way home before you know it!


There are different types of sedation dentistry

Two common and extremely effective types of dental sedation are:

  1. Nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”), which you inhale through a mask

  2. Oral sedation, which is a pill you take before your appointment

There are a few key differences between the two. First, oral sedation is stronger. While nitrous oxide will make you feel relaxed and a little giddy, oral sedation helps reduce your level of consciousness. You may even fall asleep and you might not remember much of your appointment. Second, nitrous oxide wears off faster. In most cases, patients can actually drive home on their own. If you opt for oral sedation, it’s not safe to drive yourself home. 

We generally recommend nitrous oxide for people who have mild dental anxiety, and oral sedation for people with more severe anxiety.

Sedation dentistry is very safe

As long as you choose a qualified and experienced dentist, sedation dentistry is extremely safe. In fact, there are no major risks associated with sedation dentistry as long as you follow a few simple steps:

  • Tell your dentist about any other medications or supplements you’re taking

  • Tell your dentist about any health conditions you have, like heart disease, diabetes, or blood pressure issues

  • Don’t self medicate or supplement your sedation with another medication

Sedation is different from a general anesthetic


When you’re under general anesthesia, you are so deeply unconscious that your brain doesn’t even respond to pain signals or reflexes. This is not the case with sedation dentistry. With sedation you’ll be awake but relaxed, or you may slip into a light sleep, but you will be able to move, see, hear, and respond to questions throughout the procedure.

While sedation is not an anesthetic, depending on what treatment you need, your dentist might choose to use a local anesthetic (pain-numbing medication) in addition to sedation. This will prevent you from feeling any pain or discomfort in your mouth.

Questions to ask your dentist about sedation

  • Are you qualified to offer sedation dentistry?

  • What sedation options do you offer?

  • Do you recommend sedation for me?

  • What should I expect before, during, and after my appointment?

  • Do I need to do anything to prepare for my appointment?

  • How long before my appointment should I take the medication (if it’s oral sedation)?

  • What else can we do to help make my appointment easier and less stressful?

Our comprehensive approach

At Towson Smile Care, we’ve seen how much sedation dentistry can help. It’s truly amazing! But our efforts to provide a calming, relaxing experience for our patients goes far beyond sedation. We’ve done everything we can to make sure you feel as comfortable as possible from the moment you walk through our door. 

  • Our friendly and gentle staff help create a warm, welcoming office atmosphere.

  • Our high-tech treatments are quick and minimally invasive.

  • Our personalized approach ensures you get all your questions answered in a caring, judgement-free environment.

Talk to us about your sedation dentistry options


If you’re nervous or scared about your appointment, let us know. Maybe another dentist told you you needed a stressful procedure but couldn’t offer you sedation. Maybe you haven’t been to the dentist in years and you’re dreading that first appointment. Or maybe you have concerns about the cost of adding sedation to your treatment plan. We’re here to help.

We have extensive experience helping our patients feel relaxed and comfortable with sedation dentistry. Plus, we accept most insurance plans and we even offer special financing options for people without insurance.

Call our office or schedule an appointment online to get started.