I’ve needed three dental crowns replaced since June 2021. I have dental anxiety and rescheduled the appointments so many times that my previous dentist’s office said they would not schedule me again until I was ready to come in. I can’t blame them because I thought I could keep the appointments but canceled them at the last minute. My wife convinced me to agree to sedation, but I am afraid I will wake up from it in the middle of an appointment. Could a patient wake up from sedation during a dental procedure? Thank you. Bernard
Thank you for your question. We understand your concerns. It is good that you agree sedation can help you get the dental work you need.
Can You Sleep Through a Procedure with Dental Sedation?
Whether you stay asleep or wake up from dental sedation depends on the level of sedation your dentist gives you. Still, if you speak to your dentist upfront about your anxiety level, they will ensure you remain sedated and relaxed throughout your appointment. We will explain sedation levels to help you understand their potency and why you and your dentist must agree on which level matches your procedure and anxiety.
What Are the Levels of Sedation Dentistry?
The levels of sedation dentistry include nitrous oxide, oral conscious sedation, and IV sedation. Usually, general anesthesia is available for complex oral surgeries performed in a surgical center or hospital.
Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is an odorless, colorless gas that can make you feel relaxed, tingling, or slightly giddy. It is the lowest level of sedation dentistry. Nitrous oxide may make you drowsy, but it is unlikely that you will fall asleep. Breathing in pure oxygen reverses the effects of nitrous oxide within five minutes. You can drive home afterward.
Oral Conscious Sedation
Oral conscious sedation is an anti-anxiety medication in pill form. Some dentists use commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medicines, including:
- Triazolam (Halcion®, in the Valium family)
During the consultation, your dentist will explain which medication they use.
What to expect with conscious oral sedation:
- Arrange for transportation to and from your appointment.
- Take the medication 30 to 60 minutes before your dental procedure.
- When you arrive for the appointment, you will be deeply relaxed.
- Some patients fall asleep during the appointment.
- It can take several hours for the sedative to wear off.
Intravenous (IV) Sedation
IV sedation is the most potent form of dental sedation. Unlike general anesthesia, you will still be conscious, but most patients sleep through the entire procedure. IV sedation has an amnesiac effect, and you are unlikely to recall what happened during your dental visit. You will need transportation to and from your dental appointment.
Sedation dentists are used to serving anxious patients and will explain your options. We recommend scheduling a consultation with a dentist who offers all three levels of sedation described in this article. Openly discuss your concerns and fears.
Sugar Land, Texas, dentist Dr. Siny Thomas of Cornerstone Dentistry sponsors this post.