What Is Conscious Sedation in Dentistry?

Sep 23, 2021 | General Dentistry, Oral Surgery

What is Conscious Sedation in Dentistry

For many people, a trip to the dentist triggers anxiety and discomfort. Unfortunately, in many cases, this anxiety is so severe that people forgo necessary dental treatments, ultimately resulting in serious damage to the teeth or even tooth loss.

Conscious sedation is a method of dental sedation designed to keep you awake and responsive during a dental procedure. However, it works to ease your anxiety and provide a much more comfortable and relaxed dental experience.

At New Leaf Rohnert Park, we understand dental anxiety. Our goal with conscious sedation is to provide you with a relaxing and comfortable dental experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Conscious sedation keeps you awake and relaxed during dental procedures.
  • Benefits: reduced anxiety, pain, multiple sedation levels, safety, quick recovery.
  • Three levels: minimal, moderate, and deep sedation.
  • Common drugs: nitrous oxide, midazolam, propofol, ketamine, dexmedetomidine.
  • Side effects: drowsiness, memory loss, slow reflexes, low blood pressure, headache, nausea, vomiting.


What is conscious sedation?

Conscious sedation is a method of relieving dental anxiety and creating a more comfortable dental experience. This method of sedation utilizes inhaled gases or specific drugs that keep you awake but in a relaxed state. You will be less aware of your surroundings and of the procedure and you may not remember what happened afterward. Whereas general anesthesia renders you completely unconscious during a procedure, conscious sedation simply relaxes you and allows you to remain awake and able to follow directions from your dentist during your procedure.


Benefits of conscious sedation

Whether you are worried about discomfort during a procedure or simply feel nervous at the thought of a dental procedure, conscious sedation eases your fears and allows for a much more comfortable dental experience.

Key benefits of conscious sedation include:

  • Conscious sedation reduces dental phobias and anxiety: A single unpleasant dental procedure is enough to create real fear and anxiety when it comes to dental visits. Conscious sedation helps to reduce this fear and anxiety and provides a calming effect before, during, and after your procedure.
  • Reduced pain and discomfort: Long procedures can often be uncomfortable. Whether you experience discomfort sitting for long periods or have low pain thresholds, sensitive gag reflexes, or sensitive teeth, sedation can help improve your comfort levels during your procedure.
  • Multiple sedation levels available: Whether you have severe anxiety or are simply looking for additional comfort during your procedure, sedation offers various levels to cater to your needs.
  • Dental sedation is safe: When your dentist offers conscious sedation, they have undergone additional training in order to administer these medications.
  • Recovery is quick: Unlike general anesthesia, the recovery time for conscious sedation is relatively quick, with some wearing off as soon as a few minutes after your procedure is complete.


The different levels of available sedation

When it comes to conscious sedation, there are three different levels. Your dentist will evaluate your dental anxiety and discomfort, as well as your necessary dental procedure when determining which level of sedation will best meet your needs. The three levels of conscious sedation include:

  • Minimal sedation: This level of sedation is the lowest and is designed to simply relax a patient. You are still able to respond normally to stimuli and verbal commands.
  • Moderate sedation: With moderate sedation, you may feel groggy during the procedure. While still able to respond to verbal commands, your dentist may need to provide tactile stimulation for you to respond. In some cases, you may not remember the procedure when it is complete.
  • Deep sedation: With deep sedation, you are nearly unconscious and very groggy, but your dentist can awaken you during the procedure if necessary. Chances are, you will not remember the procedure when you awaken.


Drugs used in conscious dentistry

There are a variety of drugs used for conscious sedation. Which drug option depends on the level of sedation recommended by your dentist. Medications can be administered by inhalation, oral medication, injection, and IV administration. Some common drug options include:

  • Nitrous oxide: Commonly known as laughing gas, nitrous oxide is a commonly used inhalation gas that provides relaxation and relieves anxiety. Patients simply inhale the gas during their procedure and, once complete, the mask is removed. Sedations wear off within minutes.
  • Midazolam: This medication comes from the benzodiazepine drug class and is commonly used in dental sedation. It works to decrease anxiety and causes memory loss, allowing most patients not to remember the procedure. This medication comes in injection form or IV. It starts working within a few minutes and lasts between 60 and 120 minutes.
  • Propofol: This anxiety-relieving drug is a fast-acting medication administered through injection. Because this medication clears the body faster than other options, it is often used for quick procedures or must be administered multiple times during a procedure.
  • Ketamine: Ketamine is a derivative of the psychedelic drug phencyclidine and helps reduce memory and relieve pain and discomfort. It wears off quickly and is best used for shorter procedures.
  • Dexmedetomidine: This medication essentially puts a patient to sleep while still conscious. This medication is given in low doses by injection throughout the procedure, oftentimes through IV administration.


Frequently asked questions

Below are some frequently asked questions when it comes to conscious sedation.

1. What complications are associated with conscious sedation in dentistry?

Some common side effects associated with conscious sedation include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Heaviness or sluggishness
  • Loss of memory of the procedure
  • Slow reflexes
  • Low blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting

2. Can any dentist perform sedation?

Most dentists can administer minimal sedation, such as nitrous oxide or oral pills. Administration of moderate to deep sedation requires specialized training.

3. How safe is sedation dentistry?

Conscious sedation is generally safe for all patients when used as prescribed. While there are minimal side effects, it has lesser risks than general anesthesia. The use of conscious sedation is often enough to get patients the treatment they need despite their anxiety, helping them maintain good oral health.


Learn more about sedation dentistry and how it can benefit you

If you experience dental anxiety or are hesitant to visit a dentist, the team at New Leaf Rohnert Park understands. We are here to help reduce your anxiety and provide you with a comfortable dental experience, allowing us to provide the dental care you need and help promote good oral health. If you have any questions about how conscious sedation can help your dental visits, visit us online or call our office at (707) 586-1549 to schedule an appointment today.

Eddie Kuo, DDS

Eddie Kuo, DDS

Owner @ New Leaf Rohnert Park

Professional Degrees

University of California at Davis – BS in Biological Sciences with emphasis in Neurology, Physiology, Behaviors

University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, Doctorate of Dental Surgery

State University of New York at Buffalo – General Practice Residency at Erie County Medical Center

Front Office Staff On Phone Taking Appointment

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