Painless Dentistry and Oral Sedation

If you or someone in your family has a fear of going to the dentist, you should talk to your dentist about sedation dentistry. This can make going to the dentist a more pleasant experience and ease some of those fears.

What is sedation dentistry?

This is when dentists use medication to help their patients relax when they are having a dental procedure. It is also referred to as sedation dentistry and painless dentistry. Even though the name implies that patients are put to sleep during their dental procedure, they are usually awake unless they are under general anesthesia, which is used for more serious dental procedures.

Levels of sedation

If you opt for painless dentistry, there are three levels of sedation.

  • Minimal sedation: When your dentist minimally sedates you, you are wide awake but relaxed
  • Moderate sedation: The medication is stronger, but you are still awake. You may not remember most of the procedure and slur your speech after
  • Deep sedation: This is as close as you get to being unconscious during painless dentistry, but you will still remain conscious during the procedure

If you are going to be sedated when you visit your dentist, you should bring someone with you so they can drive you home after your visit.

What types of sedation do dentists use?

The most common sedation dentists use is nitrous oxide, which is inhaled using a mask that is placed over your nose. The gas, which is also known as laughing gas, helps you relax. Your dentist will determine how much nitrous oxide is needed for your procedure, but the effects wear off very quickly.

If you are not comfortable with inhaling nitrous oxide or if the procedure you have to undergo requires stronger sedation, your dentist can orally sedate you by giving you a pill to take before the procedure. The most commonly used pill is Halcion, which you will take an hour before the procedure. The pill will make you a little drowsy but you will still be conscious.

Some dentists use IVs to administer moderate sedation to their patients because it allows them to easily adjust the level of your sedation.

For procedures that require dental surgery, a general anesthesia is used to keep you unconscious during the procedure. When under general anesthesia, you will not wake up until the effects wear off or the dentist reverses the effects with another drug.

Can anyone undergo painless dentistry?

Painless dentistry is recommended for people with a legitimate fear of going to the dentist. That being said, kids and adults can be sedated to help them relax during their visit.

Adults can be sedated using any of the methods listed, but kids are generally given nitrous oxide to help them relax. A small percentage of dentists are trained to provide children oral sedation.


Sedation dentistry can make a big difference if you have a fear of going to the dentist. If you get anxious before going to see your dentist, ask your dentist if sedation is an option available to you.

Are you considering (painless dentistry) in the Alexandria area? Get more (painless dentistry) information at

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