Dr. Michael Handler

Conscious and Unconscious Sedation – Which is Right for You?

By Dr. Michael Handler

Most people have some anxiety about visiting the dentist’s office. You never know what your dentist will find, and whether it will require treatment. If you’ve been postponing a dental appointment because you are terrified of undergoing procedures, talk to us about our sedation dentistry options.

What is Dental Sedation?

Dental sedation is a treatment option for anyone who suffers from high levels of fear or anxiety, a strong gag reflex, exceptionally sensitive teeth or a low pain threshold. It’s especially suitable for children, special needs patients, and anyone who needs to have extensive dental work done in a limited amount of time.

Types of Dental Sedation

Some general dental offices offer conscious sedation.  Unconscious sedation is usually administered by a dental specialist.  Methods of administering the sedation also varies.

#1: Conscious Sedation

This type of sedation is aimed at relaxing you and reducing your anxiety, as well as enabling you to accept the treatment without unnecessary stress. It can be delivered in several different ways.

  • Oral sedation uses one of several anti-anxiety medications, which are usually given in pill form. Patients are required to take one pill the night prior to the appointment, and the second an hour before the procedure.
  • Inhalation sedation uses a combination of oxygen and nitrous oxide, which used to be known as “laughing gas.” This is a light form of sedation ideal for children, given by inhaling the gas through a nosepiece. It helps to relax the patient enough to accept the treatment.
  • Intravenous sedation is administered directly into a vein, offering something of a “middle ground” between sedation and anesthesia. While it doesn’t cause patients to go to sleep completely, they are less aware of the procedure and treatment.

Most patients are drowsy under conscious sedation but are still able to respond when spoken to directly.

#2: Unconscious Sedation

Some dental procedures require full anesthesia, which is used in cases such as the extraction of multiple teeth, jaw surgery, or the placement of multiple dental implants. These types of oral surgery are usually done in a hospital environment under the direction of a surgeon or anesthesiologist. Even though many of these dental procedures only require light anesthetic, it’s important to have a qualified person overseeing the event.

Sedation vs. Pain Relief

It’s important to realize sedation doesn’t help you to not feel pain. For most dental procedures, the dentist will inject numbing agents into the tissue surrounding the area to be worked on, just as they do when you are fully awake. This is essential for most root canal therapies and tooth extractions, excluding wisdom teeth which often require general anesthesia.

Is Dental Sedation Right for You?

Many people think they are able to handle dental visits without sedation. If any of these situations sounds familiar, however, you might be better off choosing sedation:

  • If you suffer from severe anxiety
  • You’ve had previous traumatic dental experiences
  • You’re afraid of needles, especially in the facial or mouth area
  • Previous dental work has shown you have problems getting numb with local anesthesia

Speak to your dentist about the level of sedation you need. It’s always possible to start off with very light sedation and increase it according to your needs.

For more information about our sedation options, contact our dental clinic in Scarborough at 416-267-4661 or click here to book online.

Complete Oral Care

Do you ever feel nervous about dentist appointments? Rest assured: we cater to nervous and anxious patients in a gentle and considerate manner. Call us now to schedule a free consultation!