Dental Anxiety? Learn About Types of Sedation Dentistry

Medically Reviewed By
Jonathan G. Campbell, DDS, FAGD
One of the top rated Dentist in Salt Lake City, UT

As you arrive at the dental office you immediately smell the aroma of latex, the sound of high-pitched drills, and the sight of syringes and foreign tools.

Does your anxiety skyrocket?

You’re not alone, only about 50% of adults see the dentist regularly…Opens in new window to ADA article…, often due to fear and anxiety.

Fortunately, there are many types of sedation dentistry that can help.

Many dental offices try to put you at ease by offering comforts such as:

  • Movies in the ceilings
  • Headphones
  • Comfortable dental chairs
  • Blankets
  • Drills that make less sound
  • Lasers that make no sound
  • New techniques to get you numb and make sure you stay that way

Even still, there are many whose negative history of dental experiences leads to needing more help.

These types of sedation dentistry can help your anxiety

There are 3 main methods of sedation that are commonly used to make dental appointments easier:

  • Nitrous oxide sedation
  • Oral conscious sedation
  • Intravenous deep sedation.

Let’s explore each of these types of sedation dentistry in more detail.

Nitrous oxide (laughing gas or relaxing gas)

Nitrous oxide dental sedation, also known as laughing gas, is administered through a small mask that rests on your nose. A mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen flow through the mask.

Within minutes you feel more relaxed, time seems to pass more quickly, and you may feel warm and happy.

It is often called “laughing gas” because of the good feeling most experience. Occasionally your arms and legs might feel heavy and toes and fingers might feel tingly.

Following your appointment, you breathe pure oxygen for a few minutes. You are safe to drive as the “relaxing gas” takes only a few minutes to wear off.

Nitrous oxide will not make you forget or fall asleep.

Potential pros
  • Able to drive yourself 
  • Conscious during treatment
  • Minimal side effects 
  • Low cost
Potential cons
  • Possible nausea
  • Awake and aware of surroundings
Oral conscious sedation

Oral conscious sedation dentistry involves the use of medications that are taken usually one hour before your dental appointment.

You will need a ride to your appointment, as you will not be able to drive on the medication.

Oftentimes additional medication may be given in the office depending upon how comfortable you are. 

The most commonly used medications are benzodiazepines, like Valium and Halcion. These medications are commonly used as sleeping pills. Therefore, you may sleep through portions of your appointment.

These medications also cause amnesia and so you may remember little of your dental appointment.

Your pulse, blood pressure, and breathing will be monitored closely during the procedure. 

Following the procedure, your escort will drive you home and stay with you for a few hours after your procedure to make sure you recover safely.

Potential pros
  • Conscious 
  • Able to communicate
  • May sleep during the appointment 
  • May not remember portions of appointment
  • Low cost
Potential cons
  • Groggy
  • Unable to drive home
  • Unable to resume activities right after the procedure
  • May be aware of happenings during the procedure
Deep sedation

Deep intravenous sedation dentistry is usually provided by an anesthesiologist or an oral surgeon.

This form of dental sedation results in a patient that is completely sedated.

You will be asleep for the entire procedure, and you will not remember the procedure. 

Like conscious sedation, you will need a ride to and from the appointment and someone to watch you for a few hours while you recover.

Potential Pros
  • Unconscious 
  • Won’t remember the appointment
  • Asleep during the appointment 
  • Level of sedation deep and accurate
Potential Cons
  • Unable to drive
  • Unable to resume activities right after the procedure
  • Needles are used for placing the IV
  • Nausea possible
  • Highest cost

Which of the types of sedation dentistry will you choose?

So which type of dental sedation should you choose?

It depends on your level of anxiety, budget, and the dental treatment planned.


Your level of anxiety and what you want to remember and feel will be a large contributor to the choice of your sedation.    

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you want to be relaxed or asleep? If your answer is “asleep,” deep sedation would be preferable. 
  • Is it OK if you remember portions of your dental appointment? If NOT, then deep sedation would be preferable.

Deep sedation is the most expensive of all the type of sedation dentistry.

Dental insurance generally only covers sedation if the removal of wisdom teeth is involved. So, the cost can become a deciding factor.

Most dentists offer financing plans so that costs can be arranged to fit your budget.

On a tight budget? Oral sedation may be preferable. 


The level of sedation may depend on what dental treatment is needed.

If you need only minor care, nitrous oxide may be successful. For example, for a standard cleaning visit, nitrous oxide is generally enough.

If your needs are more complex or involve surgery, deeper sedation may be indicated.

Consult a dentist you trust to learn more

Together, you and your dentist can decide on the best type of sedation dentistry for your concerns and needs.

The important thing to know is that there are alternatives for people who suffer from extreme dental anxiety.

With sedation dentistry, many people are now able to smile confidently and eat comfortably after years of neglect.

At Legacy Dental in Salt Lake City, UT, the dentists offer all forms of sedation dentistry. We are always concerned about your comfort.

Contact our office or give us a call today to get started with sedation dentistry!


Editor’s note: This post was originally published in July 2019 and has been completely revamped for comprehensiveness and timeliness.

Legacy Dental blog is proudly run by our Salt Lake City dentists team; We share knowledge about general dental care and practices. Apart from running this blog, we offer various dental services such as general dentistry, emergency dentistry, and dental implants for the community in Salt Lake City, Utah

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