1 May
what is sleep dentistry

What Is Sleep Dentistry?

Sleep dentistry is a relatively modern technique to help people get their dental appointment even though they may be suffering from dental anxiety, fear, medical conditions, psychological conditions, or a larger gag reflex and so on.

Simply put, sleep dentistry uses medications to help people relax during dental treatments. The patient remains conscious and responsive, but the procedure is pain-free. What we don’t want to happen is for people to avoid going to the dentist for so long that it puts their overall health at risk. We know that a lot of your total body health comes from your oral health and a lot of conditions like gum disease and cavities are treatable and preventable but can impact you negatively long term.

What are the types of sedation dentistry?

Sedation dentistry may be an option to make your following dental procedure more comfortable. There are a few types of sedation dentistry. Each comes with its set of pros and cons. Let us explore the different types of sedatives, so you can determine which is right for you when you choose a sedation dentist Cambridge.

  • Nitrous oxide.

Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is the most common form of sedation dentistry. The dentist places a mask over your nose. You breathe in the gas for it to take effect. It is that simple.

Laughing gas helps you relax and be less anxious regarding the upcoming procedure. This form of sedation dentistry is loved by many for its fast-acting nature. The gas takes full effect after a few inhalations and dissipates just as fast.

It allows you to go home without any issues after the appointment.

  • Oral Conscious Sedation

Another type of sedation dentistry is oral conscious sedation. It requires you to take a pill before you have your appointment. The medication will make you feel groggy, but not so much that you fall asleep. You will remain awake through the entire thing, but you will be unable to remember it.

Oral conscious sedation works well for highly anxious patients or those who need more invasive treatments but don’t want or need the third type of sedation.

  • Intravenous (IV) Sedation

Intravenous sedation is the most potent form of sedation dentistry. Full anesthesia requires a professional to inject medication into your bloodstream.

IV sedation helps people deal with extreme dental fear and is necessary for complex procedures, such as root canals and wisdom teeth extractions.

Once we administer the IV agent there is a component known as ‘anterograde amnesia’ which means you do not remember the events after the drug is given. This is an amazing way to help patients with needle phobia to obtain freezing and have a comfortable procedure

The effects of IV sedation wear off fast. You will be able to go home when done.

Some people ask what does sleep dentistry feel like? You can read some of the effects there.

What is the difference between oral conscious sedation and full anesthesia?

  • oral sedation is unpredictable as it depends on your metabolism of the drug and it stays in your system a lot longer
  • IV sedation allows us to give the sedative agent in controlled doses and also allows us to reverse the drug if needed. IV sedation is cleared out your body prior to you leaving the office

Oral conscious sedation differs from full anesthesia in that the patient remains conscious throughout the process. However, oral sedation is unpredictable as it depends on your metabolism of the drug and it stays in your system a lot longer. You can communicate with your dentist and follow instructions.

IV sedation on the other hand, allows us to give the sedative agent in controlled doses and also allows us to reverse the drug if needed. IV sedation is cleared out your body prior to you leaving the office.

Oral conscious sedation is easier to administer and necessitates a shorter recovery time, whereas full anesthesia requires a trained professional to oversee the administration of the IV medication. The patient does not experience pain on the pill sedation but may feel minor discomfort.

But are you a candidate? Is it right for you? https://cambridgesmiles.ca/am-i-a-candidate-for-sleep-dentistry/

What are the disadvantages of sedation dentistry?

Whenever you have treatment at the dentist, it’s important to know the risks or disadvantages of that treatment. Let us discuss the main disadvantages of sedation dentistry.

  • Someone has to come with you

For most of the options, you need someone to accompany you. The sedatives will make you drowsy. The effects will fade fast, and you can go home right after the procedure, but not alone. If you drive yourself to the dentist’s office, you must bring someone to drive you back. If you opt for pill sedation, you will feel sleepy even before the appointment.

  • You have to wait for the medication to take effect

Nitrous oxide and IV sedation will kick in right away. Oral conscious sedation requires more advanced planning.

The patient must swallow the pill an hour before arriving at their appointment. It ensures they are sedated enough when they get there.

  • It is challenging to regulate and adjust the level of sedation

All patients metabolize sedatives at different speeds. It can be difficult to determine the right dosage quickly and accurately.

However, dosage-related issues are rare.

  • It may leave you feeling nauseous

Usually, the effects of sedation dentistry fade once the dentist finishes the treatment. Yet, some side effects may linger until the end of the day. For example, you might experience nausea and fatigue.


What are the advantages of sedation?

What are the advantages of sedation?

what are the advantages of sedation
Sedation will make your dental treatment peaceful and relaxing (image from Freepik).

Sedation in dentistry offers many benefits. It is a simple, easy, and efficient way to manage dental fear and pain. It makes dental procedures more pleasant and comfortable. Let us look at the main advantages of sedation for your dental care needs.

  • The dentist can do more dental procedures in one appointment.

When a patient is anxious about the procedure, they might delay even going to their appointment. Sometimes for years. And when they do go, it can be difficult to treat them.  They become restless, sometimes panic and some even try to escape from the dental chair!

Sedation puts the patient in a relaxed and compliant state. They follow the dentist’s instructions without any resistance or much movement.

Sedation also diminishes the gag reflex.

It enables the dentist to work more efficiently, resulting in fewer visits for the patient. Sedation saves you time and money.

  • The next visit to the dentist will be less stressful.

Sedation makes the treatment painless and peaceful. You will not have any bad memories or impressions after your appointment. This experience will encourage you to visit the dentist more often, which is beneficial for your oral health in the long run.

  • Sedation works for children, too.

For young patients, sedation may be the only option. Sedation during young children’s dental appointment helps create a positive experience with the dentist. It leads to better oral hygiene and reduces anxiety in the future.



  1. Watson, S. (2008) Sedation Dentistry: Can You Really Relax in the Dentist’s Chair?
  2. Kapur, A. and Kapur, V. (2018) “Conscious sedation in dentistry,” Annals of Maxillofacial Surgery, 8(2), p. 320.
  3. Colgate (2022a) “4 Conscious Sedation Drugs Used In Dentistry,” Colgate [Preprint].
  4. Papineni, A., Lourenço-Matharu, L. and Ashley, P. (2014) “Safety of oral midazolam sedation use in paediatric dentistry: a review,” International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry, 24(1), pp. 2–13.

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