Before, During, After: A Sedation Dentistry Timeline

If you’re anxious or afraid of the dentist, if you have a sensitive gag reflex or trouble holding your mouth open for extended periods, or if you need extensive dental work but simply don’t have the time to come in for multiple appointments, you might make a good candidate for sedation dentistry. These sedation techniques help patients achieve appropriate levels of relaxation in a safe and effective manner. Today, we’re taking a look at what you can expect when you opt for dental sedation.

Before the Appointment

The days and hours leading up to an appointment can be particularly nerve wracking, especially for people suffering from dental fear or anxiety. Knowing what to expect can ease your nerves and prepare you for what’s ahead.

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is a gentle sedative, administered through a soft mask throughout the appointment. No advance preparation is necessary. Although, if you’re feeling a bit anxious, calming techniques (like deep breathing) or a distraction (like a new magazine) can help.

Oral Sedation

Oral sedation is often administered in two doses. You take one dose of anti-anxiety medication the night before the appointment to help you sleep. Then you take the second dose about an hour before the appointment. You will need to fast for at least six hours prior to your appointment.

IV Sedation

As with oral sedation, you will need to fast for at least 6 hours prior to your appointment. Be sure to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing to the appointment and leave the jewelry at home.

During the Appointment

You’ve made it to the office. If you’re undergoing oral or IV sedation, you will have already arranged for a trusted friend or family member to drive you to and from the appointment. Patients undergoing nitrous oxide do not need to make special transportation arrangements.

Nitrous Oxide

Once you’re reclining comfortably in the treatment chair, your dentist or dental hygienist will place a soft mask over your nose. You will be instructed to breathe deeply and, within a few breaths, you will begin to feel relaxed, euphoric, and a little out of it. You will be awake and aware but unconcerned with the dental procedure.

Oral Sedation

By the time you sit down in the treatment chair, you will feel very relaxed and tranquil. You may even have a hard time keeping your eyes open. Surprisingly, you will not be technically asleep, just profoundly out of it.

IV Sedation

Once the IV has begun administering the anti-anxiety medication, you will feel its effects within a few seconds. As with oral sedation, the profound relaxation induced by IV sedation can feel almost like sleep. However, you will still be able to answer questions posed by the dentist.

After the Appointment

Nitrous Oxide

The state of euphoria and giddiness induced by nitrous oxide will wear off almost immediately (usually within a few breaths). Some patients report a slight woozy or disoriented feeling for a few minutes afterward but are back to normal and able to drive and return to work or school after the appointment.

Oral Sedation/IV Sedation

With oral and IV sedation, don’t make any plans for the rest of the day, as the effects of this type of sedation will persist for a few hours. Your escort will need to drive you home where you can enjoy some downtime. Many patients take a nap and wake up feeling hungry and ready for some soft, mild foods to replenish the system.

About Brad Greenfield, DDS

Dr. Brad Greenfield practices family, restorative, cosmetic, and sedation dentistry with a holistic approach to patient care and comfort. To schedule an appointment at our Lake Orion, MI dentist office, call (248) 693-6213. We proudly serve patients of all ages in Clarkston, Auburn Hills, Oxford, Rochester Hills, and neighboring communities.