Home | Anesthesia/Sedation

What is sedation dentistry?

Sedation dentistry uses medication to help patients relax during dental procedures. It’s sometimes referred to as “sleep dentistry,” although that’s not entirely accurate. Patients are usually awake with the exception of those who are under general anesthesia.

The levels of sedation used include:

  • Minimal sedation — you are awake but relaxed.
  • Moderate sedation (formerly called “conscious sedation”) — You may slur your words when speaking and not remember much of the procedure.
  • Deep sedation — you are on the edge of consciousness but can still be awakened.
  • General anesthesia — you are completely unconscious.

What Types of Sedation Are Used in Dentistry?

The following types of sedation are used in dentistry:

Inhaled minimal sedation.

You breathe nitrous oxide — otherwise known as “laughing gas” — combined with oxygen through a mask that’s placed over your nose. The gas helps you relax. Your dentist can control the amount of sedation you receive, and the gas tends to wear off quickly. This is the only form of sedation where you may be able to drive yourself home after the procedure.

Oral sedation.

Depending on the total dose given, oral sedation can range from minimal to moderate. For minimal sedation, you take a pill. Typically, the pill, usually taken about an hour before the procedure. The pill will make you drowsy, although you’ll still be awake. A larger dose may be given to produce moderate sedation. This is the type of anesthesia most commonly associated with sedation dentistry. Some people become groggy enough from moderate oral sedation to actually fall asleep during the procedure. They usually can, though, be awakened with a gentle shake.

IV moderate sedation.

You receive the sedative drug through a vein, so it goes to work more quickly. This method allows the dentist to continually adjust the level of sedation.

Deep sedation and general anesthesia.

You will get medications that will make you either almost unconscious or totally unconscious — deeply asleep — during the procedure. While you are under general anesthesia, you cannot easily be awakened until the effects of the anesthesia wear off or are reversed with medication.
Regardless of which type of sedation you receive, you’ll also typically need a local anesthetic — numbing medication at the site where the dentist is working in the mouth — to relieve pain if the procedure causes any discomfort.

IV Sedation

Reliable intravenous (IV) sedation techniques let you rest comfortably while receiving the dental care you need and want. Your physical safety remains one of our top concerns as we closely monitor blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate during sedation.

While mostly used for oral surgeries or time-consuming procedures, IV sedation can also alleviate severe anxiety or phobias associated with dentists, needles, or drills to make any dental procedure pleasant. If fear of the dentist keeps you from necessary treatment, ask us about IV sedation to ease you through any procedure.

Oral Sedation

Oral sedation is prescribed in order for you to relieve any anxiety you may have in the hours immediately before a dental appointment. Typically, the anti-anxiety pill is taken the night before the appointment. However, if you do take oral sedation, it’s essential that you have someone drive you to the appointment, since you will feel disoriented or drowsy before and after the procedure.


During most dental procedures we will need to numb a portion of your mouth, and we inject local anesthesia medicine into your gum or inner cheek. It can numb as much as half of your lower jaw or as little as a small portion of your mouth for one or two teeth. The most commonly known local anesthesia is Novocain, but we now use local anesthetics that not only work more effectively but last longer.

Oraverse is a numbness reversal medication, which allows you to regain normal sensation in your mouth significantly faster. We administer Oraverse the same way local anesthetic is given (through an injection in the mouth) so that you return to your normal daily routine without any numbness or discomfort.

Topical Anesthesia

Topical anesthesia, commonly known as a “numbing gel,” is most commonly used to numb your gums or other tissues in your mouth in preparation for an injection. For the most comfortable dental experience, the topical anesthesia is left on the surface of the cheek or gums for about a minute so that you experience little to no discomfort while we administer the injection.

Nitrous Oxide (N20)

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is one of the most quick, easy, and painless forms of sedation. Commonly known as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide is a type of inhalation sedation with no smell or taste when inhaled. Within about 2 minutes, relaxation sets in so that we can provide you with the most comfortable experience as possible during the procedure. Based on your personal needs, we can easily adjust the level of sedation. There are no after effects such as a “hangover,” and there are no side effects that could adversely affect your health.

There are many advantages to using Nitrous Oxide

  • The depth of sedation can be altered at any time to increase or decrease sedation.
  • There is no after effect such as a “hangover”.
  • Inhalation sedation is safe with no side effects on your heart and lungs, etc.
  • Inhalation sedation is very effective in minimizing gagging.
  • It works rapidly as it reaches the brain within 20 seconds. In as little as 2-3 minutes its relaxation and pain killing properties develop.

You may want to ask Dr. Burgess for a “5 minute trial” to see how you feel with this type of sedation method before proceeding.