Types of Dental Sedation

Dental sedation is a wide range of techniques used to calm patients before and during procedures. The most common types of sedation are inhaled, oral, and intravenous (IV) sedation.


Before any sedation, the dentist will need to know your complete medical history. They will also check your blood pressure and heart rate.

Nitrous oxide

Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is a mild sedative that reduces anxiety and helps patients feel calm before a dental procedure. It is inhaled through a small mask that fits over the nose, and it can be used by adults or children. The gas is colorless and odorless, and it doesn’t put patients to sleep. It also doesn’t affect the ability to speak or respond to physical or verbal stimuli.

It is one of the safest sedation methods and is easily titrated to individual needs. It can be administered via the intravenous (IV), oral, or rectal routes. It is also a great choice for pediatric dentistry, where it can be used to treat dental anxiety and fear in young children.

The sedative effects of the nitrous oxide are very short-lived and are reversed when the mask is removed. It is also very affordable and easy to administer. It is also safe for pregnant women and children, and it does not cause a significant increase in heart rate or blood pressure.

Nitrous oxide is a very popular method of inducing minimal sedation in the dental office. It is available in small cartridges designed to be used for whipped cream, and it can be purchased at grocery stores and online. It is also socially acceptable and can be administered without injections or needles.

Oral sedation

This type of sedation typically involves taking a pill about an hour before your appointment. Depending on the dose, this can range from minimal to moderate sedation. Usually, dentists prescribe drugs such as triazolam (Halcion) or diazepam (Valium) in order to achieve the right level of sedation. They may also use zaleplon or lorazepam for children. Liquid sedation is sometimes used as well.

Patients who receive oral sedation do not become unconscious, but they can feel groggy and sleepy. They are still awake, though, so they can respond to questions or requests. In most cases, patients remember very little or nothing of their dental appointments after the sedation wears off.

Your dentist will give you detailed instructions on how to take the sedative. They will also monitor your heart rate, blood pressure & breathing throughout the procedure to ensure your safety & comfort.

It is important that you follow these instructions exactly to avoid any side effects. You should also arrange for a friend or family member to drive you to & from your appointment. It can take several hours for the effects of oral sedation to wear off, so you should not operate any machinery or do anything that requires serious brainpower until then. You should also avoid alcohol for a few hours. This can affect the way the drug works & increase the risk of complications.

Intravenous sedation

A drug is administered through a vein and works quickly to calm the patient. It is useful for patients with severe anxiety or who are undergoing lengthy and complex procedures. Compared to other sedatives, intravenous sedation has an excellent safety profile and allows dentists to adjust the level of sedation easily. It also eliminates the need for needles and syringes, making it easier to administer.

The most commonly used sedative in dental offices is midazolam, which is injected directly into the vein. It has a very quick onset, allows the dentist to continuously monitor the patient’s level of sedation, and causes amnesia. Midazolam is ideal for a variety of procedures, and it can be combined with anesthetics.

Another sedative used in dentistry is ketamine, which is also administered through the vein. Ketamine has a short duration, and it is best for sedating patients with severe anxiety. It is often paired with an anesthetic to increase its effectiveness.

Regardless of the type of sedation used, it is recommended that you have a friend or family member drive you home after your appointment. You will likely feel drowsy, and it is important that you do not operate heavy machinery or make major decisions until the effects of sedation wear off. You should also avoid taking alcoholic beverages or unapproved medications until the dentist can check you for complications.


If you are scheduled for dental sedation, it is important to follow the instructions provided by your dentist. The specifics of these may vary, but they usually include avoiding food and/or drink until after your appointment and having a friend or family member drive you to and from the appointment. Operating a vehicle after dental sedation is not safe.

Nitrous oxide is administered through a mask over your nose and helps you relax, although you remain conscious. It minimizes pain and allows you to speak, although your words may sound slurred. It has a quick onset and wears off quickly. It is also used for children to prevent them from squirming in the chair and making it difficult for the dentist to perform treatment.

With oral sedation, you take a pill, typically Halcion (a drug in the same class as Valium). This medication induces minimal to moderate sedation, although you will still be awake. Depending on the dose, you might fall asleep, but most patients can be easily awakened.

With intravenous sedation, your doctor injects drugs directly into your vein to administer a continuous stream of medication. The sedatives can be adjusted throughout the procedure to maintain the desired level of sedation. Unlike oral and nitrous oxide, the effects of IV sedation take longer to kick in and reach a higher level, but they last much longer.