What is dental sedation?

Did you know that that 53% of the UK population are scared of visiting their dentist, and 17% of us have such a bad fear that we don’t go at all - or even get essential treatment? That’s more than 1 in 6 people potentially missing regular check-ups, and not getting necessary dental treatments when they need them the most*.

We should all feel comfortable and have a pleasant experience when we visit our dentist, even if we’re feeling anxious and need some extra support. The good news is that there is help available. If you suffer from dental anxiety and stress, and this prevents you from getting dental treatment – some of our practices can give you dental sedation to help you feel more comfortable. 

      How does dental sedation work?

      Dental sedation offers an alternative to general anaesthesia for most dental procedures, as you will stay conscious at all times: meaning you’ll still be able to communicate with your dentist. It won’t put you to sleep, but will help you to relax and make your treatment more comfortable. A local anaesthetic is still normally required to carry out dental treatment.

      Types of dental sedation include:

      • Inhalation sedation: involves breathing in oxygen and nitrous oxide through a face mask just before your treatment starts and throughout treatment
      • Intravenous (IV) sedation: involves injecting a sedative drug via a plastic tube into a vein in your hand or arm

      You could also be offered oral sedation. This is when you take a prescribed tablet ahead of your treatment. 

        When can dental sedation be used?

        Both types sedation can be used for all dental treatments, including routine procedures such as seeing your hygienist. Or for longer or more complex treatments such as crown and bridge work, or dental implants. They can also help if you have a strong gag reflex, experience a low pain threshold or when local anaesthetic isn’t enough.

        Inhalation sedation might be better for you if you have a fear of needles and injections, and IV sedation could be used if you’re having multiple treatments in one appointment: as it can make you feel so relaxed, long appointments can feel much shorter.

        Inhalation sedation can be given to adults and children, but IV sedation can only be given to adults.

          Are there any sides effects?

          For inhalation sedation: there aren’t many side effects and in very few cases, you might experience nausea and drowsiness

          For IV sedation: it is very normal to feel sleepy, but you’ll usually recover within eight hours (but it can take up to 24 hours). You might experience temporary memory loss during and after sedation. Many patients have no memory of treatment at all.

              What happens after having dental sedation?

              After you’ve had inhalation sedation:

              • You’ll be asked to breathe in oxygen to wear away the nitrous oxide until you feel back to normal (this usually takes 5 to 10 minutes)
              • Your clinician will wait to ensure you feel fully recovered before letting you go home
              • We recommend that you do not drive or use machinery for 24 hours after your treatment

              After you’ve had IV sedation your reaction times might be slower than normal. For 24 hours after treatment, we recommend that you:

              • Arrange for someone to pick you up and stay with you
              • Are not responsible for anyone else, and avoid making any important decisions
              • Do not drive or use machinery 

                Our friendly clinicians are here to help and are experienced in helping patients overcome their fears, making them feel at ease.

                They can discuss with you whether dental sedation is available, and if it is – whether it’s suitable for you. They’ll also talk through anything you might need to consider on the day of your appointment, if you do wish to go ahead with dental sedation.  

                If it isn’t available, they can talk through other options that could you feel more relaxed about having dental treatment.

                Find out more about helpful techniques and support for dental phobia.


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