Dental anxiety/phobia is a very real and common fear that can hold you back from seeing a dentist and going through with important dental procedures. For people who avoid visiting the dentist due to fear or anxiety, sedation is often used to help them relax and ease their anxiety.  Sedation can be used for many types of procedures, from simple teeth cleanings to longer, more invasive procedures.

What is sedation dentistry?

With sedation dentistry, a dentist will administer medication that will help you relax during surgery or uncomfortable procedures. Sedation can involve a combination of techniques, ranging from nitrous oxide (also known as laughing gas) to general anesthesia. Depending on the procedure, a dentist will typically use sedation in combination with local anesthesia so you will be more relaxed and feel no pain.

What are the different types?

There are four different levels of sedation. They are:

  1. Minimal sedation

This degree of sedation is the most common for dental procedures. Minimal sedation will allow you to remain awake during a procedure but feel very relaxed

  1. Moderate sedation

Moderate sedation will put you in a deep state of relaxation but still enable you to respond to commands.

Afterwards, you might slur your words when speaking and not remember anything (or very very little) from the procedure.

  1. Deep Sedation

At this level of sedation, you will be right on the edge of unconsciousness. And while you may fall asleep, the dentist will still be able to wake you to communicate.

You will not feel any pain or be able to respond to commands without repeated simulation. Patients often will not remember anything after the procedure.

  1. General Anesthesia

With general anesthesia, you will be given medication intravenously that will make you either almost unconscious or completely unconscious during a procedure. We do not perform this at Affinity Dental.

You will not be able to awaken easily until the effects of the anesthesia wear off or are reversed with medication.

How does it work?

There are a few different ways that sedation drugs can be administered, however, we focus on inhalation sedation only.


This type of sedation involves breathing nitrous oxide and oxygen through a mask that’s placed over your nose. The amount of sedation you receive is typically minimal, but can easily be controlled and tends to wear off quickly. This is the only type of dental sedation where you can drive yourself home after the procedure.

What are the benefits?

There are many benefits to sedation dentistry, for both a dentist and the patients. Some of the main advantages include:

Fewer Visits to the Dentist:

While you are under sedation, it is easier for the dentist to carry out dental work, allowing them to perform several procedures during just one appointment. This means that patients requiring extensive dental work can receive the treatments they need in fewer visits, which can also help ease anxiety.

A Stress-Free Experience

For patients who experience a lot of stress and anxiety when visiting the dentist, sedation helps put your mind at ease and allows you to relax during a procedure.

For younger patients, sedation can even help prevent dental anxiety from occurring in the first place, making it less likely that they will avoid the dentist throughout adulthood.

Helps with Sensitive Gag Reflexes

Sedation can be very beneficial if you have a sensitive gag reflex, as it allows you to relax without having the urge to choke and spit-up. And since gagging usually involves both psychological and physiological responses, mild sedatives can help to address both during a dental procedure.

No memory of the Experience

With moderate to deep sedation, most patients have very little or even no memory of the procedure. This is often very appealing for people who have had traumatic experiences involving the dentist.

Who Is a Good Candidate?

If you’re experiencing pain, but putting off seeing a dentist due to fear or anxiety, you will likely benefit from sedation dentistry. But you don’t necessarily need to have dental anxiety to be a good candidate for sedation dentistry. Sedation is also available to patients very sensitive to pain or simply require a very long and complicated procedure.